Branching-Out

Sacred Sundays

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

Decades ago, I used to walk to 11:15 Sunday masses with my mother. St. Joseph’s Church was only about a 15-minute walk from our house in Middletown, New York. We would pass a few businesses on our travels, and all of them would be closed because it was Sunday. Back then, unless the business was a hospital or a pharmacy, most businesses were not open on the sabbath day. Ours would be a quiet, almost sacred walk past the weekday-noisy business establishments, including a laundromat, a car-repair shop, and a few other small enterprises.

On our way home from church, we would stop at a tiny what-we-now-call convenience store for a newspaper and penny candy for me. I really felt like a privileged character circumventing the Sunday sanctions and buying a luxury gumdrop or two on that holy day. The little store was rather dark inside and smelled of age, but as I pointed to the different candies I wanted, the elderly saleswoman would hunch down and gingerly scoop up my choices to put into a small brown paper bag.

During my growing-up years, the Sunday sanctions were relaxed. I remember my catechism teaching about avoiding servile work on the sabbath day. As a child, I was prone to a bit of scrupulosity as I tried to follow every letter of the law. I missed the spirit of the law. I would get caught up in the confusion of law for law’s sake versus law tempered with love.

In today’s liturgy, the Gospel of Luke (6:6-11) relates that the scribes and Pharisees were just looking for a way to defame and criticize Jesus for His merciful cure of a man’s withered hand on the sabbath. Jesus is God, so this was hardly “servile” work for God! Regardless, agendas were more the issue in that circumstance. Confrontation was the scribes’ and Pharisees’ goal, not the joy of the healing!

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Topics: Sunday Matters, Scripture, Sunday, Sunday Mass, Sharon Krause

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

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

Attention to the Details

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 1, 2022 6:00:00 AM

The other evening I saw a local news story about a tractor-trailer that collided with a train. There are photos of the badly damaged truck. Maybe it was too early to report all the details of the incident, but I was waiting to hear about the condition of the truck driver. I never did. That was an important detail about the story, but it was not in the report.

We can learn a lot from details. In the gospel reading in the liturgy today, the detail about Jesus having heard about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist, reminds us of the humanity of our Savior. He withdrew by himself, to be alone, probably to grieve, but the crowd of followers wanted his attention. How generous he was to be solicitous of them! His grief and his solitude did not come first.

We read another detailthat Jesus unselfishly reached out to the sick and healed them. He also paid attention to what time of day it was and was concerned about the hunger of the crowd. Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish, but we read the detail that he said a blessing first. Does that remind us to give thanks for our food, or do we save grace before meals for special family gatherings?

One more detail that is important is that the disciples picked up the leftovers after the crowd was satisfied. Do we waste food? Do we get careless about leftovers or too busy to plan well? Do we consider donating to our local food pantries or organizations that help to feed impoverished people? It is so easy to read or hear again about Jesus feeding the multitude and miss some of the subtle messages.

In order to notice and get the benefit of details, we have to try to be fully aware of what we hear or read. That is difficult sometimes, because we are often distracted or just too busy. In today’s world, it is hard to be in the moment and our best selves. I doubt we will have five thousand people to worry about at once!

Let us pray:

     Jesus, help us to be aware of the needs of the people we encounter and give

     us generous hearts. Make us aware of the details that suggest opportunities to

     spread your healing compassion. Send Your Holy Spirit to enlighten our busy

     minds so that we can be more like you. May we use our giftedness to exemplify

     grateful servitude and gentle love. We ask all this in your precious name. Amen.

  

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Topics: Scripture, scripture readings, Sharon Krause

Tobit's Journeys

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 25, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The Old Testament book of Tobit is interesting. As I see it, Tobit, progressed through about six life journeys before dying at a very old age. He certainly had a prayerful relationship with God; in the short book, we read his heartfelt prayers in chapters 3, 11, and 13.

Before Tobit was taken into captivity, with other Israelites, from Thisbe to Nineveh, he lived a life full of virtue and works of charity. He followed the law of Moses and was very generous with any money he could amass.

Once Tobit was taken to Nineveh, he courageously expedited the burials any of his people the king had ordered executed. Tobit faithfully performed numerous corporal works of mercy for his tribal brethren. However, one night, after burying one of his own people, his journey into blindness began after he fell asleep by a courtyard wall; his eyes were covered with sparrow droppings that produced white films that obscured his vision.

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Topics: God's love, gratitude, prayer life, RENEW International, Scripture

Bird Watching

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 22, 2021 6:00:00 AM

As my husband and I were out running an errand, we came upon a woman who had stopped her car on the side of a busy road. She was looking up at a nearby tree. There, on a branch, was perched a beautiful bald eagle. He was quite a sight to see.

In the colder New England weather, we often see vultures warming themselves as they sit on chimneys and rooftops near where we live. My husband and I do a vulture count on cold mornings if we happen to be out and about. This morning, the vulture count was very high! They were even populating the trees a couple of blocks from our house.

Vultures, eagles, sparrows, ostriches, and plenty of other birds are mentioned in the Bible; if you were to conduct an online topic search, you might be surprised at how many!

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Topics: God's love, Good News, HolySpirit, RENEW International, Scripture, sense of hope

Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 9, 2018 6:00:33 AM

A reading from the first Book of Kings
(Chapter 17:10-16)
 
The scene here is very stark. There is a drought in the region. The prophet Elijah comes into the city and he is hungry and thirsty. He asks a poor widow who is at the point of starvation herself for water and some bread. She has no bread but only a small amount of flour and oil. Yet, she has faith, and she feeds him; there is just enough left for her and her son. Then Elijah tells her, “For the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” The widow is a woman of faith, and God is with her.
 
Today, drought threatens the lives of countless millions in dozens of countries all over the world—especially in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. It causes mass migrations, malnutrition, and endless political strife and violence. Let us pray for today’s widows and poor families who suffer from hunger and poverty caused by droughts and floods and crop erosion, and let us use our own water resources wisely.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10)
 
“Praise the Lord, my soul.” We often pray to God and ask for help and forgiveness. Wonderful! Perhaps, sometimes we can simply offer a prayer of praise to God. It is not that God needs it but rather that we need it in order to enrich our souls.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 9:24-28)
 
The author makes an important connection between the death of Jesus and our own deaths. “But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgement, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”
 
The death and resurrection of Jesus radically changes our own deaths. It was not the end for him, and it will not be the end for us but rather a new beginning, a new life. Jesus the man died. Jesus the Son of God lives forever, and so will we. Have you ever thought much about this amazing gift? Please let the power of this gift enliven you every day, especially in times when you are troubled or feel alone.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 12:28b-34)
 
Here, Jesus is not gentle. He is challenging: “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
 
Throughout the history of Israel, widows and orphans had a special place in society, because they were economically dependent on the community. The scribes were supposed to take care of them but did not always do their duty. One of the reasons that the scribes were so against Jesus was that he called them out, and they did not like it.
 
Later in this reading, Jesus talks about people contributing to the Temple: “Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributions to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’” This woman’s gift has become famous throughout history as the “widow’s mite.” Sometimes, those who are the poorest are the most generous, not only in financial contributions but in the gift of their time and compassion. No matter how little we have, we can contribute in many other ways.
 
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: disciples, Elijah, Letter to the Hebrews, widows and orphans, widow's mite, Word of God, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of Kings, Catholic, catholic RENEW program, Good News, Gospel According to Mark, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, Jesus Christ, Psalm 146, RENEW International, Scripture, Sunday Gospel

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