Branching-Out

Remembered Quotes

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 5, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Reminiscing with an old friend can be very enjoyable. It can also be quite amusing when certain incidents come to mind. A memory decades old can make us laugh and also shed light on how patterns of life are established. For instance, my friend and I attended grammar school with Ursuline nuns as our teachers. Mother Bernadette was particularly strict. I still recall the Sunday morning many, many years ago when she reprimanded my cousin and me because she caught us giggling at Mass. We had been sitting in the section reserved for school children and something struck us funny. Mother Bernadette told us that if we did that again we would: “face a stern punish task!” We were not sure what that meant exactly, but I still remember her threat!

At that same school, when I was in eighth grade, Mother Regina Marie would frequently lecture my class frequently on the merits of becoming all we can be, using our God-given gifts and talents. Her speeches seemed more like admonitions than encouraging pep talks. She would repeatedly emphasize: “Don’t vegetate….live!”

My husband remembers that when he was a youngster he would go with his father and uncles to their hunting camp in the Pennsylvania woods. One day, he thought he was becoming lost in the woods, not realizing that his uncle knew his whereabouts. He recalls his Uncle Al telling him, “If you think you are lost, always go downhill, because water flows downhill and that leads to civilization.”

Over time, we remember such warnings, good advice, and rules to follow. One statement that the followers of Jesus have remembered for thousands of years is, “Do this in memory of me.” We have relived the Last Supper miracle countless times so that the faithful can be spiritually nourished. How grateful we all should be as, at Mass, the priest quotes the words of Jesus at the Consecration!

At yesterday’s liturgy, we read from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians about the peace of God:

   Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and

   petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace

   of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in

   Christ Jesus. (4:6-7)

 It might be a good idea to memorize that particular Bible quote to remind ourselves how to access the peace of God. With so many challenges and threats in our troubled world, we need to pray to the Holy Spirit to help find the holy peace Jesus promised us. We could start our prayer with a quote from the beginning of the sequence we prayed at Pentecost:

   Come, Holy Spirit, come!

   And from your celestial home

   Shed a Ray of light divine!

 

(Bible quote from the New American Bible, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.)

Read More

Topics: pray for peace, Sharon Krause

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 2, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 66:10-14c)

This book has three sections, and this is the last. It refers to the Babylonian Exile from 597 B.C to 539 B.C. Jerusalem was in ruins as the exiles returned. Imagine how they felt coming back to their holy city, the center of their ancient religion, to find it destroyed.

God encourages them by promising that Jerusalem will be restored and will nurse them like a mother. “For thus says the Lord: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort. When you see this your heart shall rejoice.”

These words gave the people hope and courage in the face of devastation and the exhaustion from having lived so long under tyranny. This is why Jerusalem is so important to the Jewish people today, after so many centuries of heartbreaking disasters and disappointments. It remains a powerful symbol of God’s promise.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20)

“Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” Sadly, our beautiful earth is crying out to us today in pain as we continue to pollute its land, water, and air. Let us learn more about this tragedy and how we can help.

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

(Chapter 6:14-18)

The Galatians were divided on the issue of circumcision; it was one of several issues that were causing division among them. Paul tells them, “neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.” There is something much more important: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The Galatians have argued among themselves and with Paul, so he tells them, “From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.”

Paul knew what was most important, the powerful love and presence of Jesus. It is a good lesson for us as we sometimes become upset over small matters and miss the big picture.

Read More

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

Love Likely

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 27, 2022 6:00:00 AM

My husband received two phone calls in a row this afternoon, but “Scam Likely” popped up on his phone screen, so he did not bother to answer. I realize that sort of thing happens to many of us many times.

I heard about a scam that claimed to be a way to donate to help the war victims in Ukraine. Someone was skillful in inventing this fraud very soon after the invasion began,

A lady I used to work with told me how her mother was scammed and lost $2,000 because she thought she was helping her grandson who had supposedly been arrested. Whoever had phoned the solicitous elderly grandma was very convincing.

How upsetting to think about people with clever imaginations and creative story-telling ability who selfishly use their talents to perpetrate evil trickery for their financial gain!

Have you ever watched television episodes that show in detail how an evil person can go to great lengths to outsmart victims to make a profit or get revenge for a past encounter? Whether the stories are true or not, it is evident that many people have extremely creative minds that can be used in terrible ways.

So what about our creativity? What about those gifts and talents God has given us? Are we supposed to use our talents and gifts to spread evil for selfish pursuits? What kind of example does that provide for others? We know the answers Jesus would give. We, ourselves know what is overtly evil, but we have to be on the lookout for rationalizations we might excuse or oversights we could lazily ignore.

Creativity involves planning and personal touches. Creativity gives life and love. We read in the Bible that we are made in Creator God’s image, so with that comes accountability. We know we should use our God-given talents with love in mind. I suggest a “DSD” day every now and then: a day during which we do something different to spread God’s love. We might phone folks we don’t see too often just to wish them well, perhaps share good wishes, or tell them of a little blessing we have experienced recently. Instead of a “scam likely” it will be “love likely.”

Read More

Topics: use your gifts, Sharon Krause, sharing our gifts

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2022

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 25, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the First Book of Kings

(Chapter 19:16b, 19-21)

Elijah was one of the most important prophets of Israel, and now God was telling him that he must choose Elisha as his successor. The Lord said to Elijah, “You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah as prophet to succeed you.” So, Elijah found Elisha “as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. . . . Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him.” That was all the sign that Elisha needed to understand that he was chosen to be a prophet, so he slaughtered his twelve yoke of oxen and fed the people in his neighborhood. “Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”

This is one of many stories in the Bible about someone receiving a call to serve God, what we today would call a vocation. Most of us grew up thinking that the word vocation meant only being a priest or a religious sister or brother, but the truth is that each of us has a vocation, a calling from God to do some kind of service with our lives. For most of us, it means being a wife or husband or parent, but it can also mean being a devoted son or daughter, sister or brother or friend. It also may mean using our talents or positions in society to help others, especially those in need. It may be many of those roles, and we should celebrate each of them in our lives, especially those that are most challenging.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 16: 1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11)

“You are my inheritance, O Lord.” Most of us may or may not receive a large financial inheritance. No matter! In our response to the verses of this psalm, we acknowledge that God is our inheritance. What more do we need?

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

(Chapter 5:1, 13-18)

Paul tells the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters: for freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”

The yoke of slavery that Paul is talking about is the old law with its hundreds of prescriptions, including circumcision. Jesus had simplified the law into two great commandments: Love God and love one another. But Paul does not want the people to emulate the mistakes of sects that promoted practices that were against Christian morality.

He concludes by telling the Galatians, “But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” So, when you and I are faced with difficult decisions, we need to reach for guidance to the Spirit that lives within each of us. The Holy Spirit is our partner in life and our guide. That may not be news to you, but even if it is, it is good news. The very Spirit of God lives within you!

Read More

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

About the Eyes

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 20, 2022 6:00:00 AM

I have heard teachers say recently that they notice their students don’t make eye contact so much with other students as in days gone by, because their eyes are more often staring at their cell phones or computers. We learn a lot about other people’s feelings, ideas, and status from looking into their eyes. There is an implicit—although, perhaps, fleeting intimacy established when we look into another person’s eyes. We gain a certain sensitivity, a particular perspective. Cell phones and other technology are helpful but impersonal machines, even as we are using them to text or face-time with others.

 What got me thinking about eyes today? In the passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel (7:1-5) read in today’s liturgy, Jesus talks about the splinter in another’s eye versus the wooden beam in one’s own eye. Splinters and beams block our vision and our judgements of what truth is. Prejudice, past experiences, and our own understanding can cloud our vision and our relationships with our brothers and sisters.

First, we have to make the effort to establish eye contact, and then we have to consider just how clear and pure that contact is. Eye intact can lead to I contact that can be be rewarding for both parties.

These thoughts about eyes were also fueled by today’s reading from the Second Book of Kings (17:5-8, 13-15a, 18), especially verse 18 which reads,

   …till, in his great anger against Israel, the Lord put them away out of his sight.

   Only the tribe of Judah was left.

 Those stiff-necked Israelites did not see things as God wanted them to see; they were not obeying God and he punished them by putting them “out of his sight.”.

 I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to look into Jesus’ eyes when he was teaching and healing during his public ministry. I think about how Jesus restored sight to the blind. What if the first thing a cured person saw was Jesus?

The first reading for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which we celebrated this past weekend (1 Corinthians 11:24-26) recounted the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. Imagine the love in Jesus’ eyes as he gave his disciples and us the means to receive him as spiritual nourishment. The I contact, the intimacy with Jesus, is a phenomenal gift that we should never take for granted.

Let us pray today that we may have clearer, more Christ-focused sight. May we see past worldly things and draw closer to our Savior and his vision of love.

   Open my eyes, that I may consider the wonders of your law. (Psalm 119:18)

Read More

Topics: Sharon Krause, intimacy with Christ, awareness

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 18, 2022 12:21:06 PM

A reading from the Book of Genesis

(Chapter 14:18-20)

Abraham was the father of the Jewish people. Melchizedek is a shadowy character from the Book of Genesis who is mentioned only one more time in the Hebrew Scriptures—in Psalm 110. “You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek.” In this reading Melchizedek is described as a king who “brought out bread and wine and, being a priest of God most high, he blessed Abram with these words: ‘Blessed be Abram by God most high, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God most high, who delivered your foes into your hand.’” So, Melchizedek is a priest and a king, and he shares bread and wine with Abram even before Abram becomes Abraham—the name God gives him as “God’s chosen one.”

It is an odd story, but it is in this liturgy because it mentions the sharing of bread and wine which is what we do during at each Mass, with one major difference. We believe that Jesus is truly present in the form of bread and wine as he was at the Last Supper.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 110:1, 2, 3, 4)

“You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.” Every priest that is ordained in the Roman Catholic Church is ordained with these words.

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

(Chapter 11:23-26)

The Eucharist is the center of our weekly worship, and the center of the Eucharist is our participation in sharing the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine. In this reading, Paul tells the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”

Remember, in the beginning, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, most Christians, including Paul and the other apostles, believed that Jesus would soon return. Until then, they were to share his presence by celebrating a meal together as Jesus did with the apostles the night before he died. As it gradually became clear that Jesus would not come back as soon as the early Christians had hoped, the celebration of the Eucharist became more and more important and central to their worship, and it kept the various communities together just as it does today with us.

Read More

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

Being Present

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 13, 2022 6:00:00 AM

The lady was walking a cute little dog. It was a lovely daynot too hot, not too cool. The sun was shining, unobstructed by clouds. The lady was looking downward as she walked. She was holding a cell phone to her ear with her left hand and was fully engaged in a conversation. She was oblivious to the beauty around her.

So many people like that woman walk around with cell phones. These devices are convenient and helpful in our busyness. I could not help thinking, however, that the dog walker was missing the beauty around her and, perhaps, opportunities to interact with her immediate environment. What did she miss by not being present to her surroundings? I wonder sometimes if those phones are not like pacifiers for the ears, sort of like pacifiers in babies’ little mouths. What if some stranger could have benefited from a friendly smile from that lady? What if a beautiful bird fluttered by in a colorful feathery flurry, singing a distinctive springtime aria?

My question is, did the lady with the dog miss things to savor because she was not fully present to the moment and to her environment? How much do we all miss if we are so busy and distracted? Do we miss recognizing God’s numerous simple blessings because our attention is taken up with social media or a world that is broadcasting worry material?

Granted, technology can be useful, but it can also interfere with our chances to just be. The first four lines of “Simple Gifts,” a Shaker hymn written by Elder Joseph Brackett, put forth what I mean:

    ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,

   ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be;

   And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

   ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

Our memories, our current life circumstances, and the ways we define our challenges all affect how present we can be at any given moment. We cannot lose sight of the fact that God, our Creator, didn’t just create us and leave! He is with us all the time and loves us. He isn’t too busy on a phone call to pay attention to us! Psalm 16:7-11 tells us

   I bless the Lord who counsels me;

       even in the night my heart exhorts me;

   I set the Lord ever before me;

       with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

   Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,

       my body, too, abides in confidence;

   Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world

       nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.

   You will show me the path to life,

       fullness of joys in your presence,

       the delights at your right hand forever.

It takes conscious effort on our part to make time to try to be present as who we actually are, with our individual gifts, talents, and potential. Jesus is our example. The Holy Spirit is our helper. And so we love!

Read More

Topics: God's gifts, self-awareness, Sharon Krause

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 11, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Proverbs

(Chapter 8:22-31)

“Thus says the wisdom of God: ‘The Lord possessed me, the beginning of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; from of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth.’” Who or what is this wisdom that seems to speak as a person? Is it God himself, or herself, because in the Hebrew Scriptures wisdom was often called Lady Wisdom? Later, in the Gospels, Jesus is called the Wisdom of God. Are you confused? Join the crowd that has been trying to determine this for two thousand years. We who are Christians or Jews refer to ourselves as monotheists, people who believe that there is only one God, and yet we Christians believe that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent is also God. How does this all fit together? Welcome to the greatest mystery of our faith—the Holy Trinity, one God who is three Persons. This is not a mystery to be solved. It is the mystery that you and I live in every day, the mystery of God’s unconditional love.

Remember when you were taught as a child that you were created in the image and likeness of God? That God is not an isolated single being somewhere out there but rather a community of persons—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that God’s very Spirit lives within each of us even when we are off track, when we have seriously sinned or have disbelieved. God never abandons us.

It also means that we are not meant to be alone. We are communal beings created by our God who is a community of persons. That is why we long for the love and friendship of others, why we are willing to make great sacrifices for our families and friends and our larger communities. It is a major part of our spiritual DNA. Let us rejoice in who we truly are, not only created in the image and likeness of God but living our lives in that divine and human community.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 8”4-5, 6-7, 8-9)

“O Lord, our God, how wonderful is your name in all the earth.” Our love for one another is what makes God’s name wonderful. We are God’s messengers of that love.

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

(Chapter 5:1-5)

Paul is writing at a time of great persecution and suffering, so he wants his people to have hope. “Brothers and sisters . . . since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that but we boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character , hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Do you pray in the Spirit of hope, realizing that the answer to our prayers is often not what we may expect or when we expect it? Some prayers seem to be answered soon, others in time, and still others in ways we had not imagined. Yet, we pray in hope in the embrace of our God—all three Persons—in our Community of Divine Love.

Read More

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

Open House, Open Heart

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 6, 2022 6:00:00 AM

My daughter and her husband are buying a house, and the closing is in the beginning of June. In the process, they went to a few “open houses” for which there were no appointments needed. Some of the “open houses” were for sale “as is,” but more of the homes were fixed up and shown in their “Sunday best,” with all their fine features on display.

With celebrating the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, my thoughts turn to how we should be like “open houses,” ready and open to receiving the Spirit’s gifts and fruits and ready to manifest them. Our just being “as is” may not be good enough. Some examination of our consciences and careful reconciliation may be necessary. The Holy Spirit offers comfort, refreshment, solace, healing, life, peace, and forgiveness, and we need to consciously accept and share these benefits.

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-11) tells us that everyone in the mixed-nationality crowd that had gathered near that house in Jerusalem heard his or her own language being spoken by men who seemingly would not know them. If we think about ways of human communication, people speak in many ways…even with body language, their compassion, and by their actions or hesitancy to act. There are many means of communication, but when love is what we are communicating, the Holy Spirit is a powerful force of inspiration and strength.

In John’s Gospel (20:21), Jesus tells the apostles that just as the Father has sent Him, so he sends them. He sends us, too, armed with the Holy Spirit. It is like the deposit my daughter had to put down on their house. That was just the beginning. We have to stay open, aware, and invested. We have to be the agents as well as the recipients of comfort, compassion, consolation, healing, peace, and forgiveness. Unlike the house-buying process, there is no “closing.” God’s love does not end. We are blessed with it over and over again.

St. Paul reminded us,

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. (1 Corinthians 12:7)

We should be rejoicing! “In the Spirit” is a great place to set up housekeeping! The Spirit is a unifier. We are in this Pentecostal afterglow together! Taking the time and giving our attention to this mission of love is worth it! Our open hearts are full of hope! In today’s world so laden with grief and sadness, the Holy Spirit will counsel us. We must stay close to that Spirit in our daily lives. It is refreshing to pray often the Pentecost Sequence, Veni, Sancte Spiritus, from the Mass on Pentecost. Thank you for coming, Holy Spirit!

Read More

Topics: feast of pentecost, Sharon Krause, Gifts of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Pentecost

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 4, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

(Chapter 2:1-11)

If you wonder why there were so many people from so many countries in Jerusalem at the time described in this reading, it is because Pentecost was first a Jewish feast and a time when pilgrims from all over the near world would come to Jerusalem to worship. Saint Luke tells us of strange happenings: “a noise like a strong wind” and “tongues of fire” similar to events at the time God established the original covenant with the Jewish people. Luke wanted his audience to believe that this was God confirming a new covenant with a new diverse people—thus, the diversity of languages, yet all understanding one another. Of course, Luke is writing all of this a few decades after the actual events, and he wants people to know that this was the beginning of something new that had its roots in a previous tradition and fulfilled that tradition. Today, we say that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 104)

"Lord, send out your spirit, and renew the face of the earth." Here is a common thread between Judaism and Christianity—the Spirit of God. The difference for us Christians is that we believe that the Spirit of God is not “out there” somewhere but rather lives in each one of us. That is one of the major breakthroughs of Christianity. God is not some distant being but absolutely close to each of us even when we might not feel that presence. We are never alone.

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

(Chapter 12:3B-7, 12-13)

Saint Paul tells us that we may each have different gifts and forms of service, but what unites us all together is the one Spirit. And, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

You and I each have different gifts from the Spirit. Do you believe that? What are your spiritual gifts? How do you use them, share them? Can you appreciate the gifts of someone else even though you might disagree with that person on one or more issues? That is particularly important today when our country and even our Church are often divided in many ways.

As we read the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Saint Paul, it becomes clear that there were a series of major differences within the early Church with so many groups coming in and out of focus, each believing that its version of the truth about Jesus was the right one. This has continued for some two thousand years and been the cause of wars and numerous unjust actions. It is only when we listen to the Spirit and act in the loving power of the Spirit that we have peace and true communion.

Read More

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

Subscribe Here!

Recent Posts

Posts by Tag

See all