Branching Out Blog

It's Amazing!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 13, 2023 6:00:00 AM

There are so many terrible things happening in this world right now! It has been suggested that much of our troubles come from excluding God from our lives, our country, and our schools. We get so busy with our personal goals and desires that God may not come first, if we see him there at all. God sent his Son to teach us and redeem us. Let’s take a walk today through the Gospel of Mark and let us be amazed and astounded at the wonders of God’s love.

Mark 1:21-22: Then they came to Capernaum and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

Mark 1:26-27: The unclean Spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Mark 2:12: He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Mark 4:39, 41: He woke up, rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm….They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Mark 5:20: Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

Mark 5:42: The girl, a child of 12, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded.

Mark 6:2a: when the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished.

Mark 6:51: He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded.

 Mark 7:37: They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

 Mark 9:15: Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed.

 Mark 10:32: They we’re on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed….

 Mark 12:17: So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.

 Mark 15:4-5: Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.” Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

 Mark 16:5: On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe. They were utterly amazed.

 Prayer:

Lord Jesus, your words, your deeds, your teachings and your love are truly amazing. We are astounded by the wonders of your saving love every day of our lives. Increase our awareness and help us to share our amazement with others so they will come to know you more and more. We thank you, amazing Lord, for suffering, dying, and rising for us. Praise be to you, Son of God, Messiah and King!

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Topics: forgiveness, Sharon Krause

Football Lesson

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 6, 2023 6:00:00 AM

There it is! The football is still there! It has been lying on that lonely, small patch of grass for almost a year. Whoever takes care of mowing that area has mowed around that object and left it undisturbed. The football has started to come apart after weathering numerous Florida rainstorms. No one has decided to throw it into the trash bin, despite the fact that there is a nearby town sign discouraging littering. The football sits there day and night, seemingly as a monument to procrastination or stubborn littering. Whoever first put it there will undoubtedly not come back for it.

That football brings to mind certain things about our human condition. Any of us could have a prejudice or grudge against another person, and that impediment could hang around for a very long time. We might not even remember what started the problem. Other life experiences and relationships could be running along very smoothly and seem very happy. That tainted feeling that we feel for a particular person could actually be wearing out, but we are not paying attention.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Maybe we should think about those little parentheses we put around certain people and start the business of forgiving those who have trespassed. Our football may be a little apology or attitude adjustment we should make to someone else.

I have heard of long-standing grudges in families. Sometimes a grudge can be almost a legacy that is perpetuated as a “family thing.” Other times, we might have a falling out with another person who has moved away. We may not see the person, so the bad feeling has never been resolved. That little football on the green does not take up much space, but it is still there!

Whatever our own little football may be, it is probably time to throw it away. It may be helpful to pray with Colossians 3:12-15:

 

   Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion,

   kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and

   forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord

   has forgiven you, so you must also do. And over all these put on love, that

   is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the

   peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.

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Topics: forgiveness, spiritual renewal, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the Year

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 16, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Sirach

(Chapter 27:30-28:7)

“Forgive your neighbor’s injustices; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days and put enmity aside, remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.”

Please read that again and let it sink in.

It is so easy to focus on minor injustices done to us, a seeming neglect or inappropriate words. Wonderful relationships can be ruined, families torn apart. Why? Cannot justice and love be restored through patience and forgiveness? These are the same gifts we ask from God for ourselves. Without them, we are at a loss and isolated. With them, we are renewed and enlivened.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12)

“The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.” Is that the God you believe in? I hope so. It is the only God that exists.

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

(Chapter 14:7-9)

“Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for himself, and no one dies for himself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, if we die we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be the Lord of the dead and of the living.”

Let’s think about that for a moment. Jesus is with us throughout our lives, every day of our lives and at the time of our deaths—especially then. Have you ever had the opportunity and privilege to be with someone who is dying? It is a sad time, a challenging time, but also a blessed time with Jesus and our loved one. It is a time when gifts are given. We can call forth those gifts for the dying person, and they will come to us as well in faith.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 18:21-35)

“Peter approached Jesus and asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy- seven times.’” Peter would know what Jesus meant. Seven was a powerful number in Jewish culture, and seven times seven would be heard to mean as many as needed.

But to make it clear, Jesus tells a parable of a king who forgives a servant who owed the king “a huge amount.” The servant had pleaded with the king: “Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full.” The master was moved with compassion, forgave the loan, and let the man go. However, then the servant found another man “who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt.”

Other servants saw what had happened and told their master. “His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Jesus is using language and an example from his time, not ours, but the point is the same. We must forgive others if we want to ask God for forgiveness. Yes. Sometimes that is very hard, but it is what we are called to do.

Is there someone that you need to forgive? Ask the Holy Spirit who lives within you for the strength to forgive on whatever level you are able. Does it mean that you have to be best friends with the person? Sometimes it works out that way, but that is not always possible. What is possible for you? How can you take the first step or help a person you know to take that step toward reconciliation?

 ✝️

 

Photograph by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, forgiveness, God's forgiveness

Human Dignity vs Dehumanization: Final Words of Those Executed

Posted by Alice Hugh Brown on Mar 8, 2023 6:00:00 AM

The State of Oklahoma has paused its executions until May 2023. This is hopeful news as it indicates that the state is not only looking over its method of execution but also allowing more time for appeals to be filed and reviewed. Members of the state legislature who still support the death penalty have expressed concern over the possibility of executing innocent persons. This is a step forward.

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Topics: Catholic social teaching, death penalty, forgiveness, Dignity and the Death Penalty

Chore Prayers

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 23, 2023 6:00:00 AM

There are many simple, mundane little jobs we do every day. Why not make those jobs more than chores? I say we should add a little prayerfulness and stir well. Here are some examples, but we all can add or subtract ideas.

 LAUNDRY. As I sort these clothes, O Lord, help me to learn to discern better what things in my life need to be sorted through carefully and, maybe, made better. I am grateful for those favorite clothing items that I enjoy wearing, but as I spray and treat small stains on my clothing, may I resolve to work to remove any habits that sully my relationship with you, my Lord. When I fold and put the clean clothes away, may the Holy Spirit help me to order my life and feel a sense of peace.

 DISHES. Lord, I am thankful for the food that has been on these dishes and in these cups. You have been so generous, Lord, and I don’t always remember to say grace before or after meals.

I think of the cup of wine at the Last Supper that you passed to your apostles after you changed the wine into your blood. You are such a generous Lord, sharing and giving your Body and Blood to us as divine nourishment. May I hold you close and let your love spill out to others.

 COOKING. Lord, I remember your feeding so many followers with just five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. I remember the account of your having breakfast waiting for your apostles when they had finished fishing. Preparing meals is not just about food. Help me to remember that love, care, and camaraderie can be there as well. Bon appetit!

 SWEEPING. Not only am I cleaning and clearing the way for my family and friends, but I am clearing the way for you to work in my life today, Lord. With your help, I will avoid those pesky little temptations that get in my way, and I will use my precious time to spread happiness and love—even in simple, little ways. I will endeavor not to sweep difficult decisions under the rug, but rather to ask the Holy Spirit for inspiration and wisdom.

MAKING THE BED. Good day, Lord! Thank you for comfortable sleep which gives me time to rest and reset. I remember that your infant bed was a manger, and I assume that as you walked various places in your public ministry, you did not have a soft, well-made bed on which to sleep. Help me never to take my comfort for granted. Enlighten me that I may use my well-rested self to bring comfort and consolation to your other children.

  

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Topics: forgiveness, gratitude, Sharon Krause, daily prayer

Leftovers

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 16, 2023 6:00:00 AM

There are so many kinds of leftovers, some good, and some not so good. With big and busy holidays, for example, there are often various amounts of leftover foods from the specially planned feasts. How long do the turkey remnants last in your refrigerator? Are there crumbly samples of many different cookies left over from the workplace cookie exchange? Was that big casserole too overwhelming to finish at one sitting?

For the most part, I like leftovers when it comes to food. Leftovers can mean I don’t have to plan a meal or bake something new. Often leftovers even taste better the next day. Sure, many meals of “repeats” can get to be too much, but from my experience, that does not happen very often.

Let’s get out of the realm of leftover foods. How about leftover laughter? What fun it is to recall a humorous incident or a funny joke and chuckle again to yourself. How about meeting a friend with whom you had shared a silly experience, and when your eyes meet, burst into laughter again?

There are treasured memories—-leftover thoughts—that linger with us for years. We joyfully recall life experiences with family members and friends who have moved away or passed away. We might remember and savor first-time happenings or last-time moments. We may love to rehash happy occasions or holy spiritual highs. Not long ago, we read in Sacred Scripture that after the shepherds visited the newborn Jesus,

Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

Of course, certain memories may be sad or punctuated with grief but remain part of our “leftovers repertoire.” Perhaps some thoughts that pop into our minds can involve resentment. I have heard of families that deal with leftover resentment or grudges for years. Nothing good comes from unforgiveness. Grudges should be discarded as if they were moldy aged food leftovers. The time with which each of us has been blessed should be used for producing and fostering positive, loving, and fruitful relationships and memories. We should pay attention to what St. Paul advises in Philippians 4:8:

    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,

   whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any

   excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 I encourage all of us to be very careful which leftovers of any sort we carry with us this year. Making a resolution to invite the Holy Spirit into each day of our lives—and keeping that resolution—is a good ingredient for future promising leftovers!

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Topics: forgiveness, reconciliation, Scripture, Sharon Krause, holding grudges

Sea-Shalls

Posted by Sharon Krause on May 28, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Have you noticed that we can look at something and not really see it? Either our attention isn’t well focused, or we are distracted by preconceived ideas or hesitations. The Holy Spirit can help us see better in many circumstances. I suggest that we visit my word-beach and collect some “see-shalls”.

Those who see beyond themselves and their own agendas and spend their time and creativity loving others shall be surprisingly rewarded.

Those who honestly see the error in some of their thoughts, words, or deeds, and work to correct their bad choices shall find renewal and refreshment with the Holy Spirit’s help.

Those who, with clear eyesight, see the equality of all God’s childrenour brothers and sistersand treat everyone fairly shall share the joy of new friendships and freedoms.

Those who see the importance of not dwelling in the past but making the most of the present shall experience new confidence and a stronger trust in our loving Father, God.

Those who humbly see their brothers’ and sisters’ need for forgiveness and willingly offer it shall receive forgiveness themselves and peacefully enjoy reconciliation with the Lord.

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Topics: forgiveness, generosity, insight, prayer life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, introspection, the examined life

Medi-stations on Jesus' Forgiveness

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 15, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Lent is an ideal time to remember how Jesus forgives sinners. Below are six “medi-stations” based on gospel accounts wherein Jesus forgave sinners publicly.

1. Jesus forgives a paralytic. In Mark’s Gospel (2:1-12), we read of a paralytic who was brought to Jesus for physical healing. After four companions lowered the man from an opening in the roof. Jesus first said, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 5). Jesus teaches about priorities. Certainly, it is important to be able to walk; but having one’s sins forgiven is even more important. How are my priorities this Lent? Should I walk on over to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? The all-powerful, all-loving Jesus will give us a clean bill of spiritual health if we ask for it in faithful prayer.

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.    Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)

2. Jesus forgives a woman caught in adultery. In John’s Gospel (7:53-8:1-11), Jesus says he will not condemn an adulteress and cautions her not to sin again. Jesus had just told the people watching, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). Am I quick to judge other people? Have I ever considered sharing with others little strategies I have used to help me refrain from some sinful behavior? Helping can be better than criticizing.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5)

3. Jesus says salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus. Jesus says salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus. In Luke’s Gospel (19:1-10), Jesus tells Zacchaeus that salvation has come to his house and that the lost has been saved. Zacchaeus was inspired by Jesus to atone and make reparations for all his sins as the chief tax collector in Jericho. He did not just climb a tree but also climbed out of his sinful ways of extortion. At times, I might feel that my sinful habits are too hard to overcome; but if I invite Jesus to stay at my house and help me to be persistent in prayer, I can be hopeful and willingly keep trying.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)

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Topics: penance, forgiveness, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, God forgives, Jesus forgives

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