Branching-Out

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)

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Topics: Sharon Krause, intimacy with Christ, awareness

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!

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

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!

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

Oh, So Blessed

Posted by Sharon Krause on May 31, 2022 6:00:00 AM

With the lingering pandemic, visiting relatives and socializing with friends and family have been limited over the past couple of years. I have not heard of anyone recently staying with a relative for three months as Mary did with her cousin, Elizabeth. I am sure Mary was a very helpful visitor. I can imagine some happy conversations and sincere prayers of gratitude going up to God.

In the gospel reading for today’s Feast of the Visitation, the word “blessed” is found four times. Elizabeth tells Mary that she is blessed and blessed is the baby she is carrying. She tells Mary that she is blessed because Mary believed what the Lord had told her through the angel would come to pass. And then Mary, in her “Magnificat,” says that generations will call her blessed.

How often do we call yourselves blessed? Do we take the time to count our many blessings? Blessed isn’t a word that I hear too frequently. I do hear: “Good luck!” or “I hope things work out for you.” Despite all the evils and dangers in this troubled world, there are so many blessings we do enjoy and often take for granted. When God answers a prayer, do we spend as much time thanking him as we did asking for the blessing? God, the Creator, the Almighty, the Omnipotent, is loving us, even though sometimes we don’t understand his timing or his answers. We are blessed over and over again, in big ways and in small ways!

Did we ever go to visit a friend or relative and casually point out how blessed that person is? It is so easy to find fault and complain. People will eagerly sympathize with you. However, it is better still when we encourage people to offer thanks with us!

Jesus said in the Beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) that those who live in certain ways are blessed. What might seem like big challenges in life can result in future blessings! Being meek, being merciful, being righteous can be hard work, but we will be oh, so blessed for our efforts, according to our Savior.

We are especially blessed to have the true Body of Christ available to us at every Mass. we hear the priest remind us of that:

   Behold the Lamb of God,

   behold him who takes away the sins of the world.

   Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

Without a doubt, we are blessed—with life, with love, with hope. In our daily prayer time, the Letter to the Ephesians 1:3-6 is a good starting point:

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had blessed us in

   Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before

   the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he

   destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor

   of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.

 

 

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Topics: Gratitude to God, Sharon Krause, counting our blessings

Peace of Mind

Posted by Sharon Krause on May 23, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A certain phrase stood out for me in the first reading in the Liturgy of the Word for the Sixth Sunday of Easter. In this reading from the Acts of the Apostles, (15:1-2, 22-29) St. Luke writes that Barsabbas and Silas were sent to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas to deliver a letter to reassure the gentiles that by abstaining only from certain foods and by refraining from unlawful marriage, they will be acting rightly.

The apostles felt it was necessary to deliver this message to the Gentiles. Luke records their explanation:

     “Since we have heard that some of our number without any mandate from us

   have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have

   with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you

 along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul…” (Acts 15;24-25)

 

So can you guess which phrase stood out for me? The answer is disturbed your peace of mind. In today’s world, there is so much that can disturb one’s peace of mind! Depending upon the broadcast channel you are watching or listening to or the newspapers you read, or even on situations in your personal life, it is easy to have your peace of mind disturbed. How about the rising prices of everything, or the upsurges in the pandemic, or the questions of “fake news,” or climate change, or local crime? The list is long!

 What factors make up peace of mind? I suggest that when you decide upon personal definitions of what is right and wrong, you give yourself a base on which to build peace. It also gives you a confidence and, perhaps, a certain methodical calmness. Of course, research and fact-finding are important, along with faith and trust in your sources of information.

 

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Topics: Sharon Krause, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, peace of mind

Three Meditations

Posted by Sharon Krause on May 16, 2022 6:00:00 AM

No. 1

The Gospel according to Luke recounts the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to be enrolled.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2: 6-7)

 Oh, that I were those swaddling clothes. The purpose of swaddling clothes is to calm the baby and decrease anxiety. The thought of being that close to the baby Son of God, to somehow be a comfort to him, to quiet him and comfort him is quite satisfying. As a human, Jesus had needs. Certainly, the circumstances of his birth were not ideal. If I could wrap around him, be so close to him, be of help to him, I would be joyful. Who can resist the awesome wonder of a newborn baby? I know this baby is the promised Redeemer. I want to be near him. I want to be near Him every day. As the swaddling clothes, in the quiet, I can adore him, listen to his breathing and his little baby whimpers. May I feel that closeness to Jesus today as I shut out unnecessary distractions from the world that can be very cold and disquieting.

 No. 2

The Gospel according to Luke recounts the great consecration at the Last Supper.

 Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

Oh, that I were the tablecloth at the Last Supper. I would behold the first Blessed Sacrament right there as the apostles looked on. I would smell the aroma of that wine. I would see close-up the soon-to-be-pierced hands of Jesus as he broke the bread and lifted the cup of wine. I would be of ritual service at this blessed table fellowship. Perhaps I would catch some crumbs of the sacred bread as the apostles shared it. I would be clean and pure and ready to serve throughout the Passover celebration, recognizing that this celebration is new and special and will be repeated for all years to come! May I be of willing service to others. May I always appreciate the awesome gift of the Holy Eucharist and spread the news of the gift to others. May I never take this gift for granted.

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Topics: Sharon Krause, three meditations

Restarting Fresh

Posted by Sharon Krause on May 9, 2022 6:00:00 AM

In so many public places nowadays we see bottles of hand sanitizers for public use. The pandemic has caused many of us to be very aware of cleanliness. Whether it is a bank transaction we do, or credit card machines we finger-tap, or groceries we touch, sanitizers offer chances to immediately clean off any contaminants and start fresh. Small chances to start over, to refresh, to be clean again are good, whether it be on a physical level or even a spiritual level.

With regard to the spiritual life, for example, we read in the Letter of James,

   Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners,

   and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (4:8)

At the beginning of Mass, after the greeting, the first prayer we say is a prayer of penance. We consider our past sins and ask forgiveness, so we start our Mass with a sort of conscience sanitizing. In fact, even before that, as we entered the church, we might have dipped our fingers into the holy water font and blessed ourselves so as to start fresh. We end the Mass with a new start as the celebrant gives us the final blessing.

Think about it. Would it be helpful to frequently review our interactions with others and try to “clean up” our possible sarcasm or uncharitable remarks or our not-so-loving afterthoughts? It is not that we are so terrible, but with the speed of modern technology and ease of communication, it is easy to come up with fast responses that are not always so loving. Perhaps we should sanitize a little more often and freshen up with kindness and understanding.

   Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you,

   O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

 

 

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Topics: penance, resurrection, Sharon Krause, starting fresh

Thinking Farther

Posted by Sharon Krause on May 2, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A few nights ago, my husband and I were asleep in bed when, all of a sudden, I was awakened by a chirping sound. Every 30 seconds or so, I heard a chirp in the dark hallway. Ah! The smoke detector battery was dying, and it wasn’t going to go quietly. My husband’s hearing is poor, so I woke him and asked him to take the detector down from the ceiling and relieve its distress. Neither of us was happy about the untimely chore. Everything ended well, but I was a bit annoyed about being awakened. As I lay there trying to get back to sleep, I thought a little more about the trivial incident. It really is a good thing that the detector alerts us when the safety device cannot perform its function. Safety first, sleep later!

On that same night, Buddy, our elderly cat, decided not only to jump up into bed with us, but to jump again, onto our headboard whose upper edge is only about two inches wide. Have you ever watched a cat as he estimates distance before trying a jump to a certain height? Well, Buddy was considering the third phase of his caper, likely to the cluttered top of our chest of drawers, when I grabbed him and gently changed his mind. He was thinking farther ahead, but so was I! I could imagine the clock, the lamp, and a great number of pocket treasures sent flying if our “Feline Wallenda” had his way! In that case, I had to think farther and fast in that room lit only by the minimal glow streaming through the windows from the outside streetlight.

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Topics: evangelization, resurrection, spreading good news, Sharon Krause

The Love Continues

Posted by Sharon Krause on Apr 25, 2022 6:00:00 AM

In Chapter I of the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that Jesus stayed among his followers for 40 days after his resurrection. After all his suffering, wouldn’t we expect Jesus to choose to go straight to heaven to be with his Father? Jesus continues to love us.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that the risen Jesus told Mary Magdalene and her companions not to be afraid but to go tell his brothers that they would see him in Galilee. (Matthew 28:10) And when Jesus saw his disciples, he assured them that he would be with them always and commissioned them to make disciples in every nation, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all his teachings. (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus did not want them to be fearful or feel alone. He loved them.

In the episode described in the passage from Mark’s Gospel read at Mass today, Jesus told his followers to go in to “the whole world” to proclaim the Gospel and, in his name, drive out demons, heal the sick, and speak in new tonguesall of this in spite of whatever dangers that might challenge them. (Mark 16:15-20) Disciples have Jesus’ promises of signs, miracles, and safety because they have Jesus’ love.

In the famous passage in Luke’s Gospel, we read about Jesus explaining Scripture to two disciples as they walked to Emmaus. He wanted them to open their hearts and understand. He loved them. (Luke 24:13-35) We read a few verses later that he also helped the eleven remaining apostles to understand the scriptures after telling them all to be at peace. (Luke 24:36-49) Again, Jesus commissioned his disciples to witness to the good news of salvation. He told them he was sending what the Father has promisedthe Holy Spirit. Understanding. Hope. The promise of help. What love!

 

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Topics: Christ's love, resurrection, road to Emmaus, Sharon Krause

Easter Joy

Posted by Sharon Krause on Apr 18, 2022 6:00:00 AM
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Topics: Easter Sunday, Jesus’ Resurrection, Sharon Krause, Easter joy

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