Branching-Out

Words and Consequences

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 29, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Grudge! That word jumped out at me as it was read in Mark’s gospel at today’s liturgy. I have heard stories of grudges between families and individuals. The stories are never good. I know of one family that for almost 20 years has been damaged by a grudge over the worth of family property. Three members of that large family have isolated themselves from all the other relatives. They never communicate. It is as if the rest of the family had died! There are many causes of grudges, but they all seem to involve unforgiveness or anger or ambitious rivalry. Words are usually exchanged. Emotions come into play.

In Mark 17-29, we learn that John the Baptist has told Herod that it is unlawful for him to have his brother’s wife, Herodias. For that, John is imprisoned by Herod even though Herod enjoyed listening to John’s preaching. Herod promised Herodias’s daughter her heart’s desire after her delightful dance; that is when grudge-ridden Herodias suggested that her daughter ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod had to keep his word!

If we hold a grudge, we try to punish the person with whom we are at odds. We really are punishing ourselves by holding on to anger or resentment. In the Lord's Prayer, we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we hold a grudge, we take back our part of the proposed deal with God. Somehow, we might righteously think that if we hold onto a grudge, the object of our anger gets what he or she deserves: the loss of our love or attention. We, however, miss out on the possibilities of satisfying interactions with that person. The grudge can take on a life of its own and be “in charge.”

I suggest that we try to turn grudges into nudgesthat is, nudges to bring love into challenging situations. Deflate the grudge balloons! Pray about any situation that tempts us to hold onto anger; ask the Holy Spirit to shine a new revealing light to help us see other sides to the story. We might take a small step and start a conversation about something else upon which everyone does agree. Do a little. charitable work of mercy together. Recall a happy event we have shared and give thanks to God together. Invite conversation and possible new avenues of joint effort.

Remember that grudge-holding is bad-example-giving to others. Diffuse the emotional buildup while remembering past joys.

 

Psalm 51:12-14 is a good forgiveness prayer:

   A clean heart create for me, O God,

       and a steadfast spirit renew within me.

   Cast me not out from your presence,

       and your holy spirit take not from me.

   Give me back the joy of your salvation,

       and a willing spirit sustain in me.

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Topics: reconciliation, Scripture, Sharon Krause, holding grudges

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 27, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Sirach

(Chapter 3:17-18, 20, 28-29)

This is one of the few times in the liturgical cycle that we read from a book of Jewish writing that is not a  part of the Hebrew Bible. Yet, it is part of Jewish wisdom teaching. The first line is problematic: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.” Do you think that is true? I suppose it depends on what gifts you are giving and whether you are looking for anything in return. A true giver of gifts such as love, compassion, honesty, and service does not look for anything in return and usually is a humble person rooted in the truth.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11)

“God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.” If that is really true, God has a tremendous amount of work to do. We have more than a million homeless people here in our own country and hundreds of millions all over the world, especially refugees. Actually, it is more accurate to say that we humans are God’s partners in making a home for poor people.

A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews

(Chapter 12:18-19, 22-24a)

The early Christians made a clear distinction between the Old Covenant that was approached in fear and the New Covenant that we approach in communion with Jesus and “the Spirits of the just made perfect.” So, too, when we approach our loving Father at the time of our death, we are not alone. We journey in the presence of the Holy Spirit and Jesus and all our previously departed loved ones. As Jesus says over and over again in the Gospels, we are never alone. He is always with us, not only in life but also as we pass from this life to the other ever-lasting life. It is so important for all of us to believe this, especially those in danger of death.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

Human Dignity vs Dehumanization

Posted by Alice Hugh Brown on Aug 25, 2022 5:21:42 PM

So many injustices exist in our world that it challenges us to notice all of them. Some get overlooked or forgotten. Not so the dignity-of-life issue that has been raised by the State of Oklahoma and is getting national attention. Following a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty, the state, with the August 25 execution of James Coddintgon, has begun its intent to execute 25 of its 43 prisoners on death row between August 25, 2022 and December 24, 2024. Why? Because the state is “catching up” with executions delayed by the moratorium resulting from botched lethal injections administered in 2015.

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Topics: justice, death penalty, dignity of each person

Simply Beautiful

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 22, 2022 6:00:00 AM

I’ve named her Mimi. I have raised her since she was a six-inch seedling. She is my mimosa tree, proudly standing in my side yard. She is so beautiful with her pink and white fragrant flowers! Bees find her especially appealing as they climb all over her pretty blossoms.

Mimi has numerous branches now that gently blow with any summer breeze. Mimi is very flexible and free as she provides shade for passing ride-on lawnmowers or my husband as he trims the shrubbery. At one point, she had to be tended to because some children who ran through the yard pulled off a couple of her small branches. My dutiful husband bought some sealer and covered up the bare spaces on her branches to protect her from insects and disease. Mimi is flourishing and fancy now.

People walking their dogs in the neighborhood have stopped to ask about Mimi: what kind of tree she is, how old she might be, and so forth. They happily notice and admire her and appreciate her as a neighbor. She reaches to the sky in all her God-given splendor!

In this troubled world, I think about how I might try to copy Mimi’s simple beauty in my own life. Can I offer comfort and rest to others who are struggling? Am I able to flexibly sway with the winds of change and conflict as I grow despite the temptations and discouragements? When I break off even briefly from following the way of Christ, am I willingsealed with my Savior’s sacrificial loveto atone for my missteps and grow even stronger?

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Topics: God's gifts, Sharon Krause, sharing our gifts

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 20, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 66:18-21)

The Book of the Prophet Isaiah was not written by one person all at once. There are three main sections, and today’s reading comes from the last chapter of the third section, written as the Jewish people were finally returning from the terrible Babylonian exile.

Isaiah writes, “I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. … They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the Lord. To Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the Lord.”

This was always the dream for Israel, to bring all the nations, including the many gentiles, to worship at Jerusalem. There were moments of breakthrough and hope throughout many centuries, but the hope was not fulfilled. Yet, many of the people maintained that hope. When Jesus began his ministry, there were those who wished that he would fulfill this promise. He did much more than that.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 117:1, 2)

“Go out to all the world and tell the good news.” What is the “good news” as you know it? What does it mean to you? How do you share it with those whom you love and with others whom you may hardly know? In the midst of some bad news in your life, can you still believe in the good news of Jesus?

A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews

(Chapter 12:5-7, 11-13)

We often think of discipline as harsh and painful, but the author here is talking about a different kind of discipline—God’s discipline. “My son, do not distain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. … At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those trained by it.”

So, if we get into that “Woe is me” mentality and wonder where God is in a time of trouble, perhaps the trouble will lead to a breakthrough and healing. The key is knowing that we are not alone and remembering the times when we felt lost but found our way. That may be hard to do in the midst of whatever pain we may be feeling, but it can help us to overcome adversity and move on to a better place.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

The Everyday Gospel: We have to do that much

Posted by Charles Paolino on Aug 17, 2022 6:00:00 AM


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Topics: good works, RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino

Oh, So Blessed!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 15, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Today we celebrate the feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven, and I can just picture Mary running to embrace her loving son again! How blessed she is! And we come upon that word, blessed, four more times in the reading from Luke’s Gospel today (1:39-56)..

Elizabeth says Mary is “blessed among women” and that the baby in Mary’s womb is “blessed.” She points out also that Mary is “blessed” because she believes in the fulfillment of the Lord’s words to her.

Then Mary acknowledges that she will be called “blessed” by all generations henceforth. The whole room is filled with joy and gratitude for God’s blessings! Can you remember a time you were so joyful?

Let’s look at Mary’s beautiful “Magnificat” and pick out the blessings mentioned in the poetic prayer. Right away, we consider God’s abundant mercy for those who obey and acknowledge Him. We are reminded of God’s strength which he uses to lift up the lowly and to fill the hungry. By his actions, he directs us. He keeps his promises, so He teaches us about faithfulness. We remember the importance of humility and of what it really means to be “rich.” God is a very loving Father and his name is truly holy and should be revered as “holy.”

We can almost feel the leaping of John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb. Mary’s spirit, she says, is rejoicing. Perhaps we can remember when we have felt our spirits rejoicing. We know we have been blessed over and over. We can prayerfully savor those blessings and share our joyful gratitude without necessarily writing such lovely poetry. It is a good idea, though, to acknowledge God’s goodness and generosity. While not bragging to others, we certainly can share how blessed we are and point out others’ blessings as well. It is so easy to complain. How much better to proclaim the greatness of the Lord! (v. 46)

Let us add our own personal memories in the following prayer of thanks:

Dear Loving Father, I trust in your unending mercy. Forgive me for (       )
and for times I have wavered in my faithfulness.
Thank you for giving me hope.

Lord of Strength, I trust you will lead me to new blessings, as you show me how

   to help (       ) and others who may need assistance.

Ever-present Lord, show me how to keep loving promises to (       ) and others.
Give me perseverance and belief in the talents you have given me.

Lord, give me gentle reminders to be humble and to be aware of what is truly

valuable and important, especially in the areas of (       ).


You know me and I am so glad You do!

Your name is holy. Thank you for your beautiful name. May I use your name only in a loving way.


Sincerely,

Your oh so blessed follower,

Amen.
  

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Topics: Assumption of Mary, gifts from God, Gratitude to God, Scripture, scripture readings, Sharon Krause

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 13, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 38:4-6; 8-10)

There is an old saying that “no prophet is honored or accepted in his own time.” That was certainly the case with Jeremiah who lived just before the Babylonian Exile of the Jewish people. Israel was surrounded by Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon—all more powerful kingdoms. Jeremiah tried to warn the people of Israel of their impending doom at the hands of one of these kingdoms, but the powers that ruled in Jerusalem vowed to stop him. “In those days the princes said to the king: ‘Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers that are left in the city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of the people, but in their ruin.’” Zedekiah, who was a very weak king gave in to them. “And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern…. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.” They left him to die a horrible death, but Ebed-melech, a court official, asked the king to release Jeremiah, and the king agreed. Prophets of any age often have to proclaim bad news, and people often are not receptive. Jeremiah suffered throughout his life for speaking the truth as God revealed it to him, and the consequences for Israel were catastrophic.

For many years, climate change prophets have been warning us about the dangers of man-made pollution of our air, water, and land. Global warming has already caused rising sea levels and has compromised our food production and our air quality. In this case, the prophets are not just politicians with elections to win but scientists whose numbers have grown exponentially in the past decades, across the world and throughout the scientific community. How can we listen to their wisdom without panic but with real concern?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 40: 2, 3, 4, 18)

“Lord, come to my aid.” How often have you and I said that prayer in any number of ways? How often has it worked? Wait! Isn’t that the wrong question and the wrong approach? Our prayers are not always answered in our time and in exactly the way we desired. Prayer is not only “saying prayers”; often prayer consists of a deep openness to the Spirit within us which may help us to see the larger and long- term gifts that we are offered.

A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews

(Chapter 12: 1-4)

This was a challenging and dangerous time for Jewish converts. They were often thrown out of their synagogues and treated as traitors to their faith. And now, their Roman rulers had two things against them—being Jews and belonging to this new band of strange believers who met to worship their dead leader, Jesus Christ, and partake in his body and blood. That was madness to the Romans, who saw it as threatening to their rule.

The author tells the readers. “Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus the leader and perfecter of faith.” It was a race for the people then to keep one step ahead of their persecutors. Thankfully, we do not live under persecutors, but sometimes our own lack of faith and the distractions of material things and personal crises can slow us down in our own race to follow Jesus Christ.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

Little Prayer Opps

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 8, 2022 6:00:00 AM

The other day I watched a local news story about the increase of whale sightings here in New England. A little boy was interviewed and said there were three things he really lovesmusic, video games, and whales. I thought it would have been good if one of his professed loves was God, but I realize that he also may not have thought about the individuals he loves, such as his family members. Still, it was a chance for me to offer a tiny prayer for that little boy, a prayer that he understands that God, our Creator, is responsible for all those blessings, including music, video games, and whales.

I was outside with Buddy, our old cat, and a bunch of young boys whizzed by on their bikes. For no apparent reason, one older fellow yelled out, “Oh my God!” I got thinking about how many times I hear that exclamation or read:”OMG” on the computer. Is that expression a prayer, or is it comparable to “Gee whiz” or “ Wow!” or something as secular as that? Is it an attention-getting outburst or as repeatedly mundane as a habitual “Bless you”? Is the person really calling on God for help, as in a prayer? Well, again, that was a little chance for me to offer a prayer for that young man that God would bless him and protect him on his speedy bicycle travels.

I sometimes get annoying phone calls from people or recordings that don’t speak but just hold open the phone line. I could just hang up, but, since the line is still open, lately I have taken a minute to pray the Lord’s Prayer out loud before I or they hang up. Maybe only God hears me, but I pray.

 

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Topics: everyday prayer, prayer, spontaneous prayer, Sharon Krause

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 6, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Wisdom

(Chapter 18:6-9)

This reading is from the Book of Wisdom, so what is the wisdom offered here? Perhaps it is faithfulness to God’s promises in the face of challenges and persecutions over a long period of time. That was certainly true for the ancient Israelites, and it may be true for many of us at times. It is hard to keep faith with God when a series of bad things happen. There is a temptation to lose hope, but in troubled times faithfulness and trust in God’s promises must endure.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 33: 1, 12, 18-19, 20-22)

“Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” Do you feel chosen? Do you feel blessed? These are great gifts, given to us every day but often overlooked.

A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews

(Chapter 11:1-2, 8-19)

This beautiful reflection on the history of the Jewish people focuses on faith under challenging circumstances, starting with Abraham. His faith must have seemed like foolishness, yet it was the foundation of a great nation, a great people of faith.

We Americans are also a people of faith, faith in a dream of freedom and justice for all people. We have maintained that faith, especially when it has been tested sorely through prejudice, wars, and economic depressions and recessions as well as attempts to limit our rights, freedom and wellbeing.

That same cycle can appear several times in our individual lives: childhood abuse of one kind or another, poverty, divorce or other broken relationships, betrayals, illness, and the death of loved ones. These realities may pop up randomly in our lives without warning. But in the midst of the darkness there is always light that comes from our faith in the ultimate salvation that God has promised us. That faith is the source of life for us, especially in the face of the “little deaths” we may experience during a lifetime.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

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