Branching-Out

Paying Attention

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 26, 2021 6:00:00 AM

One day my husband and I were taking a leisurely walk around our neighborhood when we saw two policemen standing on a corner. A couple of blocks away was a police car, just sitting there as if waiting for someone or something. We concluded that the first two policemen were spotters watching passing motorists to see if they were talking on their cell phones or texting while driving. The officer in the nearby police car would get the message from the spotters and pursue any perpetrators. Citations, anyone?

That observation brings to mind the importance of paying attention to what we are doing and thereby avoiding distractions that could lead to trouble. Paying attention usually allows us to perform our activity well, because our minds are focused on the task at hand. However, since we are creatures that can usually think of more than one thing at a time, we have to strive to keep our priorities in order and our distractions under control.

Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 14) reports that when Jesus was told about the death of John the Baptist, he went off by himself to a deserted place, probably to grieve as well as pray. He could not pay attention to his grief and prayer for long, however, because a large crowd followed him and wanted him to continue his healing ministry. Jesus was always taking notice of the needs of the crowds and so, in his great compassion, he found a way to heal their hunger for food as well and proceeded to feed five thousand of them.

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Topics: Lent, prayer life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

Lenten Rosary Mysteries

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 22, 2021 2:00:00 AM
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Topics: Lent, prayer life, RENEW International, rosary, Sharon Krause

Being Prepared

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 19, 2021 6:00:00 AM

It was a very cold winter morning. My husband, our baby daughter, and I were in the car on our way from Pennsylvania relatives to home in Connecticut. We did not get very far on the highway when the fan belt on the car broke. This was before the days of cellphones. My husband pulled over and walked down a nearby exit ramp to find a place to phone his father to come and help us. It worked out fine, but the incident taught my husband a big lesson. From then on, he carried an extra fan belt, a box of many tools, and extra oil in the trunk of our car whenever we took a trip.

“Be prepared” is the motto of the Boy Scouts, and being prepared is a good idea for all of us, even though technology can bring help for any problem quite quickly nowadays.

It seems as if, in everyday life, we are always preparing for something. Most of the time we have advance notice of an exam we will be taking, a dinner we will be serving, an appointment we have made. We can plan our preparation. Sometimes, unexpected things happen; that’s when we need to have our “tools” in our trunks.

Right now, we are preparing to celebrate something wonderful: Easter and the Easter season. Lenten liturgy readings recount miracles Jesus performed, his teachings about love and the laws, the mission and identity of Jesus, and the plots to kill Jesus. We get ready for the miracle of Easter by appreciating all Jesus’ did in preparation for his crucifixion and death that redeemed us.

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Topics: Lent, Jesus Christ, prayer life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, prepare for Easter

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Fourth Sunday of Lent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Mar 13, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Chronicles

(Chapter 36: 14-16, 19-23)

This reading tells the people of Israel how the terrible Babylonian Exile happened and how it ended.

“In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem. Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on them and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of the God, despised his warnings, and scoffed his prophets, until the anger of the Lord against his people was so enflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all of its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon….”

So, that is how the Babylonian Exile began and this is how it ended:

“The Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom…. ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem which is in Judea. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him.’”

Somehow, the God of the conquered people of Israel reached into the heart of this powerful king, and the people are once again free. Of course, there were also political reasons for the king to free the Israelites, but the author attributes it all to the Lord.

There is an old saying that “God works in strange ways.” Perhaps, when you think about it, you’ll recall that happening to you, not only in the ancient past but now.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 137)

“Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you.” Are there times when you seem to be tongue-tied, unable to talk to God in prayer? Sometimes, your deepest prayer may simply be silence. No words come to you. Relax! It may take a while, but the Spirit that dwells within you will hear you in the silence.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, Lent, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Fourth Sunday in Lent

Stories to Live By

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 8, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The charismatic prayer group that I attended before the pandemic would occasionally run an eight-week Life in the Spirit seminar for the parish at large. Most of the meetings’ weekly format consisted of music and singing, silent prayer, a teaching, and a personal witness talk. I always especially enjoyed the witness talksbut then, who does not enjoy a personal story to which we might be able to relate or with which we can empathize?

When my daughter was little, I would read storybooks to her almost every night. She would bring me one book after another after another until I would almost lose my voice. Most of those short stories would teach a lesson about friendship or coping or solving problems.

It is no wonder that Jesus would use parables to teach his followers. He used everyday circumstances, familiar situations, and common objects in brief stories to convey important truths. Although some disciples may have found it challenging or impossible to understand the meanings behind the narratives, those who were open and willing were gifted with ways of understanding how God thinks. Thank you, Jesus! We know we have so very much to learn and absorb about God’s ways; for we read in the prophecy of Isaiah (55:8-9),

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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Topics: Lent, parables, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Third Sunday of Lent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Mar 6, 2021 6:00:00 PM

A reading from the Book of Exodus

(Chapter 20:1-17)

Here the Hebrews are given the Ten Commandments by God, through Moses. The first three deal with every person’s relationship with God, and the first commandment sets the Jewish people apart from all other nations. At that time, most people were polytheiststhat is, they worshiped many gods that were not the one God: the sun, moon, stars, animals, and many more. Over the years, the Hebrews, too, were tempted to engage in false worship. This commandment is the most important of all, because it creates a powerful bond between God and the whole nation and with each person. Yet the bond was always in danger of being broken by false worship.

The last seven commandments deal with a person’s relationship with others. These, too, constituted a quantum step forward in laying out standards for good behavior within families and communities. Of course, the commandments were stated in the context of a society thousands of years ago, a patriarchal society that we are still struggling to go beyond, a society in which there is no slavery or gender inequality.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 19)

“Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.” On one level, the commandments are words of everlasting life, but on a much deeper level, Jesus is the Word of God who gives us the gift of everlasting life.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, Lent, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Third Sunday of Lent

Desert Decisions

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 4, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Early in Lent, we recall how the Spirit led Jesus into the desert for 40 days, during which time he was tempted by the devil. Jesus won those battles with Satan, and angels ministered to Jesus.

Last night, I woke up from a sound sleep, and I could not seem to get back to sleep. I lay there in the dark and the quiet. My husband and Buddy, our cat, were sleeping on either side of me. There was nothing wrong, but my mind started wandering. I got thinking that wakefulness could be like a desert experience in which a person might be tempted to lapse into despair or let their worries overtake them. With a lack of positive or worthwhile stimuli, it is possibleespecially if someone is tired or illthat faith in God’s love and forgiveness could be questioned there in the darkness. Creative minds can function in good and not-so-good ways to conjure up different potential outcomes to life’s challenges. The darkness can seem long and lonely. The Psalms are helpful as we pray. Why not try praying with Psalm 16, or Psalm 28, or Psalm 30, just to suggest three?

Seven years ago, I was recovering from surgery and was off my regular sleep routine. I would wake up in the middle of the night and learned to try some ways of calming anxiety. God gave us 10 fingers, so we can easily pray even just a decade of the rosary without beads, but rosary beads could conveniently be on the nightstand next to the bed. Our mother, Mary, is always ready to hear our prayers and pray for our needs.

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Topics: Lent, Jesus Christ, prayer life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

Toss or Reuse

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 1, 2021 6:00:00 AM

In my neighborhood, we put out at the curb two large bins every other Friday morning: one for refuse to be scrapped and one containing recyclables. During this season of Lent, in our efforts to come closer to the Lord and to appreciate the miracle of Easter even more than we did in the past, maybe we should consider what about our lives we can totally discard, and what we can—-in a manner of speaking—-recycle.

St Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians (4:22-24),

You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

We all have sinful ways that we know we have to try to discard. We go to confession and start over, but sometimes those sinful habits find their way back through our circumstances of life no matter how sincere our resolve. We try again. Our God is an understanding Father who forgives and, when we ask him, helps us as we try again and again. We follow what we read in the Acts of the Apostles (4:19-20):

Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus…

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Topics: Lent, Jesus Christ, prayer life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Second Sunday of Lent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 27, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Genesis

(Chapter 22: 1-2,9a,10-13, 15-18)

This reading is foreign and horrible to us, even after these thousands of years. The first line is the clue: “God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am!’ he replied. Then God said: ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.’”

What? God is asking Abraham to kill his only son, the child God had promised when Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was beyond child-bearing age? And worse still, Abraham agrees: “Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.” But in the nick of time God says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy…. I know now how devoted you are to God.”

So, this is a story, not an historical event, to show the devotion to God embraced by Abraham, the father of his people. The Book of Genesis and beyond throughout the Pentateuch is full of these stories about the journey of the people of Israel. Some may be historical, some not, but all tell the story of God’s Covenant with his people, our ancestors in faith.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 116)

“I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.” Do you ever feel that you are, indeed, “walking with the Lord.” Are there times when you feel closer to God than usual? These experiences may not come often, but when they do, let’s stop a while and be as present to God as we can. These wonderful gifts may pass quickly but their memory is itself a powerful presence. They may come again when we least expect them to help us on our journey not the Mystery.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, Lent, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Second Sunday of Lent

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: First Sunday of Lent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 21, 2021 10:12:16 AM

A reading from the book of Genesis

(Chapter 9:8-15)

The term covenant is essential to understanding God’s relationship with Israel. It means a promise made by God to the people. This is the first covenant between God and his people—a promise to spare future generations from a devastating flood like the one that occurred in Noah’s time. This is all pre-history. There is no historical record, but it is a powerful story in which God makes a broad all-inclusive promise that includes protection of “every living creature.” A whole series of promises follow to Abraham, Moses, David, and Isaiah, each of which calls on the people to repent and be faithful to their promise. This leads to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ which you and I live today.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 24)

“Your ways O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.” If we keep our promise, our covenant with God we will live in truth and love. Of course none of us does that perfectly, but part of God’s promise to us is forgiveness, beyond any we can imagine.

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Topics: Lent, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, first sunday of Lent, New Covenant

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