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Fr. Tom’s Reflections

October 22, 2017: Belonging to God

“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” It wasn’t the response the Pharisees expected. Their question to Jesus had to do with whether it was lawful to pay the census tax to the Romans. Jesus steers away from their trap and takes them to another level.

Jesus made them, and makes us, think about what and who belongs to God. We belong to God because we are created by God in God’s own image and likeness. We belong to God because we are baptized and confirmed into the people of God. And everything we have can be traced to God, the Source. The posture of a faithful follower of Christ is to see everything as gift from God.

What does it mean for you to belong to God? How do you show that everything you have in the end belongs to God?

 


October 15, 2017: Responding to God's Gracious Love

Every once in a while we will hear some acclaim, “God will provide!” It is a bold statement of faith regarding God’s provident way toward us. This truth rings through the Word of God in the Liturgy today. The prophet Isaiah describesa magnificent feast of rich food and choice wines that God provides. Jesus tells a parable about a lavish wedding feast that a king provides for his son. These feasts symbolize God’s gifts of life, faith, saving grace, and love given for us.

But this is only half of the story. The other part of the story involves us. We must respond. We must engage with God’s saving and provident way toward us. Our response entails joyful thanksgiving (which is at the heart of our celebration of the Eucharist). We also help other people to benefit from God’s providential love by what we say and do. We express our gratitude to God by humble loving service toward our sisters and brothers.

When are you especially aware of God’s gracious and provident love? In what ways do you respond to this way of God toward us human beings?

 


October 8, 2017: The Vineyard of the Lord

For the third Sunday in a row we hear imagery about a vineyard in the Liturgy of the Word. Today we hear about all of the necessary care for the vineyard – spading the earth, clearing away stones, planting the choicest vines, building a watchtower and a wine press. All of this care and attention is necessary for the vineyard to produce abundant fruit.

The vineyard is one of the images of the Church. Here is what the Vatican II document on the Church says: “The Church has been planted by the heavenly farmer as a choice vineyard. The true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church abide in Christ without whom we can do nothing” (n. 6).

In your journey of faith, how have you experienced the strong and tender care of God as a member of God’s people? What is your part in helping this vineyard to be fruitful?

 


October 1, 2017: Saying "Yes" and Doing It

It is clear that Jesus knows human nature very well. Today's gospel can easily play out in families. One child tells a parent, “Yes. I will do what you want.” but then doesn't do it. Another child says, “No. I will not do what you want.” but then has a change of mind and does.

So in our Christian living we may promise to do what God wants us to do but we do not do it. Other times we may stubbornly refuse to do God's will at first, but then eventually come to see the right thing to do and personally own it and finally actually do it. 

What helps you to know God's will? What helps you to do God's will?

 


September 29, 2017: Entitlement or Grace

Today’s liturgy helps us to see that we can get caught into a silly trap as we journey in faith.  We can think that we are entitled to God’s grace and favor and mercy and love because we have earned it.  We have worked hard for a long time at being good and virtuous people.

I am reminded of a story of four adult children of multi-millionaires sitting before a judge. The older two children were contesting the will because they were 11 and 12 years older than their siblings.  “We feel that since we were our father’s children longer, we ought to get a higher percentage of his estate.” The judge denied their case, pointing out that they all got very generous and equal share of their father’s wealth.

Similarly, today’s gospel parable has a landowner give the same pay to laborers in the vineyard whether they worked one hour or twelve hours in the hot sun.  They are given what is just.  They are treated as equals.  The parable teaches us that we cannot transfer a sense of entitlement or merit in our workplaces onto the ways of God in the kingdom of heaven.  God’s ways are not our ways.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.

None of us earns God’s mercy and compassionate love and salvation.  These are God’s gracious gifts to bestow, not because we are entitled to them as a result of being good. But because God is God and this is how God is toward us. Have you ever resented the mercy shown others even when they don’t seem to “deserve” it?  When have you been grateful for the graces and forgiveness God gives even when you don’t “deserve” it?

 


September 17, 2017: The Quality of Forgiveness

The Word of God proclaimed in our midst this Sunday has some strong imagery. “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight” (Sirach 27:30). Our energy can be sapped by this kind of hugging – holding a grudge, harboring hurt. The person most affected by this kind of behavior is the one doing this kind of hugging. It constricts us. It turns us inward into a negative space. It makes us less free to live and love joyfully.

Today’s gospel begins with Peter questioning Jesus about how many times he must forgive someone. He is looking for a specific number. The gospel concludes with Jesus saying each of us must forgive our brother or sister from our heart. Jesus is speaking about the necessary quality of forgiveness instead of a quantity. It must be a deep, genuine, whole-hearted forgiveness.

When have you experienced God’s forgiving way toward you? What helps you to whole-heartedly forgive another?

 


September 10, 2017: In the Presence of Christ

In the Presence of Christ

There are various ways we experience the presence of Christ—in the Eucharist, in the Word of God proclaimed in the Eucharistic gathering, in a community of faith gathered together, in the voice of our conscience. Today we hear Jesus say: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

Today Jesus also asks us to respectfully point out someone's fault to that person directly in contrast to gossiping about that person. When we need to do the tough work of fraternal correction it helps to realize that Christ is present whenever two believers are in conversation. Each person can recognize the presence of Christ in the other, in what is said, and in what is heard.

What helps you to know that Christ is present when you gather with another person? How have you known Christ's presence in tough but necessary conversations?

                                                                                                       


September 3, 2017: Doing What Is Necessary

In today’s gospel we hear one of three announcements of Jesus’ upcoming suffering, death, and resurrection that appear in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In each case the three letter Greek word dei is used. This little word is translated “must” or “it is necessary.” It has the sense of this must happen according to God’s will and plan for our salvation. These three announcements are like a crescendo building up to Jesus’ actual death and resurrection.

This is followed immediately in today’s gospel with what we must do as Jesus’ disciples. We are to deny ourselves and follow Christ. This means to realize that we are not at the center of our existence. Our life-long faith journey is about giving glory to God and being joyful and humble servants to our sisters and brothers in need.

When have you especially realized what you must do as a disciple of Christ? What helps you to follow Christ wholeheartedly?

 


August 27, 2017: Go Deep

Today St. Paul says something marvelous about God: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” Depth is a dimension of space. Swimmers always dive into the deep end of a pool. Astronauts explore the depths of outer space. St. Paul is helping us to appreciate the boundless depth of the things of God. No one and nothing can compare with this divine depth.

In the gospel today Jesus ask his first disciples and us a probing question: “Who do you say that I am?” This question is meant to have us go deep and reflect on our relational experience of Christ and respond from a place of depth. A surface or shallow response will not do. Engaging with Jesus’ question helps us appreciate the depth of God’s gracious presence and action in lives.

Spend some time reflecting on the depth of the things of God. How does the question of Jesus help you to go deep?


August 20, 2017: Doing What is Right and Just

The Liturgy of the Word today begins with a one-line statement that can be a motto by which we are to live. “Observe what is right, do what is just,” the Lord says through the prophet Isaiah. Doing what is right and just is essential to our identity as a people in covenant relationship with God. For God and for human beings, justice means living in a right relationship with self, God, and others.

This motto has two parts to it. The first step is observing and noticing what right relationships look like in the Bible. That is why Sunday after Sunday God’s ways are proclaimed to us in the Eucharistic assembly. The second part – and sometimes a challenging one – is to actually behave according to the examples we are given.

What do you especially observe about right and just living? What helps you to live this way?

 


August 13, 2017: The Hand That Saves Us

We can all relate to “that sinking feeling” that can come over us when things are getting really tough and we feel overwhelmed. Peter experiences that sinking feeling in a literal way in the gospel today. During a storm Peter begins to walk on the water toward Jesus and all of sudden that sinking feeling comes over him and he begins to sink in the water. Peter’s experience is put side by side with the words of Jesus: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter grasps Jesus’ outstretched arm and is pulled up.

The gospel today reminds us of another presence when that sinking feeling comes over us. We are not alone. A strong presence is right there to lift us up. What helps you to make it through that sinking feeling? How does Christ Jesus reassure you at such times?

 


August 6, 2017: The Mystery and Majesty of God

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. There is mysterious, other-worldly imagery in the Bible readings today. The prophet Daniel has a vision of God as “The Ancient One” seated on a glorious throne. Jesus is transfigured on a mountaintop before his three good friends Peter, James, and John. There is a brilliance and a glimpse of glory that causes them to fall down.     

Today’s Liturgy reminds us that there is a lot of mystery about who God is and how God is. In fact, if we think we have totally figured out everything about God, it is a good indication that it is not really God we picture but rather our own limited human sense of God. Our response to God’s glory and majesty ought to be what is sometimes called “fear of the Lord.” This kind of fear is not terror but a sense of awe in God’s presence.

What helps you to experience the mystery and majesty of God?

 


July 30, 2017: For What Would You Ask?

Today we hear something very striking that God says to King Solomon in a dream: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Wow! Wouldn’t each of us wish that God would say such a thing to us! Solomon asks God for an understanding heart so that he can distinguish right from wrong as he carries out his responsibilities of governance. To this day we speak of the wisdom of Solomon. For what would you ask?

This reading is paired with a kind of summary statement of Jesus in the Gospel. He says that everyone who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings both the new and old from the storeroom. Our Christian journey is one of continually being instructed in the things of God. Hopefully we grow in wisdom. This heavenly way is like finding a great treasure. It is like finding a fine pearl of great price.

During this week prayerfully imagine that God says to you: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” How would you respond?

 


July 23, 2017: Weeds and Wheat Side By Side

This Sunday's gospel contains another of Jesus' parables. It is about the householder instructing the servants to permit the weeds and wheat to grow together until harvest. Then the big separation will begin between the weeds and wheat. It poses a great challenge for us. We are inclined to quickly pull up the weeds and anything that looks like a weed. The "weeds" might be someone who thinks differently, doesn't see our viewpoint or share our values, or seems like a hopeless case. Jesus' point is: don't act too quickly; you might mistake the wheat for weeds; you never know how people might change; God can do tremendous acts of transformation. Be patient. Leave the judging up to God.

But there is a kind of weed-pulling that we can do. It has to do with the weediness within our own hearts. With God's guiding spirit we can discern what is of God and what is not of God. July 11 was the feast of St. Benedict. He lived in the 6th century and was a giant in Christian spirituality. In his Rule, or outline for Christian living, he talks about how within each of us there exists an evil fervor, a bitter spirit, which divides us form God and leads us away from God. There is also within us a good fervor, a good spirit, which sets us apart from evil inclinations and leads us toward God and eternal life. In the gift of Christian discernment we can judge, with divine inspiration, the difference between the two. We can choose to go in the direction of the good spirit, the positive spirit, the Holy Spirit.

The challenge put before us is to know the difference between knowing when to let the judging up to God and when to take responsibility for our own words and actions.

 


July 16, 2017: The Effectiveness of God's Word

The Liturgy today highlights the effectiveness of God’s Word in our lives. “My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” So God speaks to us through the prophet Isaiah. Jesus used the parable of the sower to teach about the importance of our cooperation for the Word of God to be effective in our faith, hope, and love. It makes each of us think: What kind of “soil” am I?

The Hebrew word for “Word” is dabar. It has the sense of power and creativity and effectiveness built into the Word itself. A good example of this is on the first page of the Bible. God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” This same kind of effectiveness happens on each day of creation. This sense of dabar is the reason why the Word of God is proclaimed in the Eucharistic assembly. It is up to each of us to realize how God’s Word affects us and has an effect in us.

How does the Word of God have an effect in your life? What new seedling does God seem to want to plant within you?

 


July 2, 2017: The Hallmark of Hospitality

The importance of the virtue of hospitality weaves throughout the Liturgy today. We hear of a woman who provides generous hospitality to the prophet Elisha with meals and a place to stay. She is rewarded with the birth of a son for her generosity. In the gospel we hear Jesus say, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

There are two things for us to see in Jesus’ words. Because disciples belong to Jesus, those who welcome them are actually welcoming Jesus himself. Also, we must create a space of hospitality in our hearts and lives for the presence and action of the Risen Christ.

How do you experience hospitality? How do you welcome Christ into your life?

                                                                                                                 Fr. Tom Krenik

 


June 18, 2017: Participating in the Mystery of Christ


On this solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, St. Paul reminds us that our celebration of the Eucharist is a participation in the body and blood of Christ; a participation in the mystery of Christ.

In reflecting on this Eucharistic mystery, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it, Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body—the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call." [n. 1396]

How does the celebration of the Eucharist deepen your union with Christ? How does it deepen your communion with the other members of the Church?

 


June 4, 2017: The Re-Creation of Pentecost

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the completion of the fifty days of Easter. The Liturgy signals that a new era has begun through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit. Jesus breathing on his disciples on Easter night, the sound like a strong driving wind at Pentecost, and the creative Spirit of God renewing the earth in the Psalm all point us back to the imagery of God's Spirit hovering over the abyss in Genesis to begin the process of creation.

It is another creative act of God, a re-creation of the earth and those who dwell on it. This creative action of God brings peace, forgiveness, joy, and unity. This new creation continues to evolve and play out through Jesus' followers -- including you and me.

How do you experience the grace of peace, forgiveness, joy, and communion through this re-creation? How is God using you to bring these graces to others?

 


May 7, 2017: Easter Followers

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter the Liturgy is filled with imagery of Christ being our Good Shepherd. We sing Psalm 23 (The Lord is My Shepherd). Christ is described as the “shepherd and guardian of your souls.” In the gospel Jesus describes how he walks ahead of us and we follow him because we recognize his voice.

Following someone can mean different things. We can literally and physically follow the leader in single file. But the kind of “following” portrayed here is a faith-following. Where Christ has gone, we hope to follow. Christ is the firstborn of the dead and he continuously desires to raise us up into himself, to what is lovely and life-giving. We are also called to follow Christ in imitating his servant’s heart – to be with other people in humble and generous love.

What about the voice and message of Christ inspires you to follow him in faith?


April 23, 2017: The Doorway of Doubt

Doubt often gets a bad rap. "Don't be a doubting Thomas," we might say to someone. We may feel fearful or guilty when we experience doubts regarding our faith or religion.

On the Second Sunday of Easter we always hear the passage of John's gospel (20:19-31) that includes Thomas' experience of doubt about the presence of the risen Christ. This Resurrection Narrative helps us to see that doubt is not a bad thing. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt is actually one of the forms of faith. Being inquisitive and questioning leads to deeper faith. This is what happened to Thomas when he acclaimed, "My Lord and my God."

Faith is different from certainty. In fact, where there is certainty, there is no room for faith. Wrestling with doubt about our faith or God's love for us or eternal life can become a doorway to another more mature stage of faith. So don't deny doubts or feel guilty about them. Seek out good doubt-companions who can help you review, update, and strengthen your faith and beliefs.

 


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