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Fr. Tom’s Reflections

January 20, 2019: Scott Brazil's Reflection

As this bulletin is being prepared while I am on vacation, I have asked Scott Brazil to write an article.  Scott is on staff and also one of our lay Word and Communion presiders.

This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor.  They have much to teach us.  Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering of Christ.  We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. (Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel #198)

I have a confession to make.  When our Social Justice groups schedule opportunities for parishioners to serve in the community, we are not simply trying to live out the preferential option for the poor, assisting those who are in need.  Sure, that’s part of our motivation, but only part of it. The truth is that we are also trying to help you, the parishioner.

Pope Francis has continued to invite the Church to embrace a “Culture of Encounter”.  Jack Jezreel, the founder of JustFaith Ministries, beautifully describes the desired effect of encounter (Spanish “encuentro”) in his recent book, A New Way to be Church: Parish Renewal from the Outside In:

Encuentro is not solely about changing something that is wrong; it is about a communion that changes everyone involved.  Encuentro changes those who leave home on mission, and it can change those who welcome them.  Yes, those of us tugged by love to wounded places might journey in the hope of changing some part of the world, but the experience of faithful people who leave home and family is that we must be prepared to change ourselves.  The Gospel promise of metanoia, and indeed the mission of encounter and love delivers on that promise.  Having formed relationships with brothers and sisters who have experienced hardship and abandonment, we will not remain the same.

Just in the past couple of months, I have personally witnessed Risen Savior parishioners experience what Jezreel describes and the Pope is calling us to embrace.  It has come in the form of parishioners encountering Haitians on mission trips, ministering to prisoners during a weekend retreat, feeding the homeless while volunteering at the Matrix Emergency Shelter, serving women who were once caught up in the cycle of prostitution who found their way out and were celebrating their new found freedom during a graduation, and taking the time to listen to immigrants share their stories, their hopes, and their fears.

I have a great hope for the future of our parish precisely because of the transformation that has been experienced by these parishioners.  They have a solid and rooted experience from which they can, literally, change the world.  And yet, I have to wonder what our experience of being members of Risen Savior would be like if everyone was open to encuentro? I’d like to believe it would be something quite beautiful.

Are you open to encuentro?  If so, please contact me.  I’d love to share the experience with you!


January 13, 2019: Like Jesus, We Are Beloved Children of God

Each year the feast of the Baptism of the Lord completes our celebration of the Christmas season. On Monday we begin a stretch of Ordinary Time until Ash Wednesday. Luke’s version of Jesus’ baptism is a little different than the version in the other gospels. Luke portrays Jesus at prayer after his baptism when the Holy Spirit descends upon him and he hears the marvelous words: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

This gospel connects with us in two ways. While we are at prayer in the Eucharistic celebration we ponder the meaning of the divine message proclaimed about Jesus the Christ. Also, like for Jesus, after our baptism we have experiences that open up doors into the meaning of being God’s dear children. This may happen when we are at prayer, going about our daily activities, helping someone in need, or being cared for by someone in a striking way.

When are you especially aware that Jesus is the beloved Son of God? When are you especially aware of God’s redeeming love for you?

 


January 6, 2019: The Mystery Continues To Be Revealed

Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. All of the Bible readings in the Liturgy point to the wider manifestation of Christ incarnate to the whole world. Isaiah speaks of the glory of the Lord appearing over all people. We sing the melodious Psalm 72: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” Paul speaks of the mystery made known by revelation. And the magi represent all who are willing to be led to Christ.

The Collect or Opening Prayer today captures the meaning of this feast: “O God, who on this day revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy that we, who know you already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.”

How is the mystery of Christ’s presence revealed to you on your pilgrimage of faith?

 


December 30, 2018: A New Family

A New Family

Today we continue our celebration of the Christmas season with the feast of the Holy Family.  The  gospel reading  today is the story of finding the twelve year old Jesus in the temple with the teachers.  He  was  listening  to  them and  asking them questions. Jesus speaks the famous line to Mary and Joseph: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

Here we begin to see a dynamic interplay between the two natures of Jesus -- his humanity and his divinity. Jesus is the son of Mary and the Son of his heavenly Father. It is not a matter of one or the other. Both are the mysterious reality in this Christ. Through his identity and his mission Jesus builds a new family to live in the Father's house. You and I are part of this family.

 


December 23, 2018: Rejoicing In the Blessings

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” This is the acclamation Luke puts on the lips of Elizabeth during her visit with Mary. We echo these same words every time we pray the Hail Mary, including when we pray the rosary. Mary’s role as the one who brings forth the Christ from her own body is highlighted on this Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Throughout the Christmas season (which concludes with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 13) we joyfully celebrate how we are blessed by the birth of Christ into our humanity. He came to share our human life so that we can more richly share in God’s life. We are blessed indeed! During this Christmas season, take time to reflect on how your life is blessed by the presence of Christ.

Blessings of peace and joy to you and all your loved ones during this holy season!

 


  December 16, 2018: What Should We Do?  

What Should We Do?

“What should we do?” Three times the question is asked of John the Baptist in the gospel today by three groups – the crowds, tax collectors, and soldiers. The questions are asked with sincerity and a sense of urgency. The response of John is very straight forward and very practical. Share with those in need, don’t cheat, don’t bully anyone.

There are times when we ask the question, “What should we do?” Our call to action is usually not something hugely extraordinary but to do ordinary things well. Whatever our state in life, being virtuous, merciful, and sensible is what we are called to do. This way of right living is the context at the time of John and in our day for Christ to come with a fire and the Holy Spirit to usher in a richer sense of God’s reign. Then we can say with the prophet Zephaniah, “The Lord our God is in our midst, a mighty savior!”

What coaxes you to grow in Christian virtue? How does this growth help you to know the nearness of Christ?

 


December 9, 2018: How is the way for you?

On this second Sunday of Advent we hear Luke’s version of John the Baptist coming on the scene with his familiar message about the need to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight a way for the Lord to come into our lives. Luke gives us very specific references to persons and places of that time. It helps us to realize that we must also be about the same preparation in our place and time. 

The word translated “way” or “road” is the Greek word hodos. It can mean a particular road or route we take to get somewhere. It can also mean a way of living. In the early centuries of Christianity “The Way” was the name used for the manner of living as a faithful follower of Christ. Advent makes us think about our manner of living and the route we take.

How do you feel about your manner of living? What kinds of preparation and “road construction” do you sense God wants of you at this time in your life?

 


December 2, 2018: God Keeps Coming Toward Us

God Keeps Coming Toward Us

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made.” These are the first words we hear proclaimed in the Eucharistic assembly as we begin the season of Advent and a new liturgical year. A promise fulfilled. This is how God is toward us. This is our focus as we celebrate these Advent days before Christmas.

Be aware. Be attentive. Be vigilant. This is how we are to be during these sacred days. God’s hope for us is that we go even deeper into the spiral of the mystery of God’s tremendous love. God became human in Christ so that we can share more intimately in God’s unending and redeeming love. It takes a whole lifetime to more and more taste of this truth. “Advent” literally means “coming toward.” God keeps coming toward us with mercy and grace and peace.

How do you experience God’s way of constantly coming toward you? How will Advent help you in being aware of this grace?

 


November 25, 2018: The Sovereign Christ

Today we celebrate the last Sunday in this liturgical year. We call it the feast of Christ the King. This celebration was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. He said that when humanity recognizes "that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace, and harmony." The unity of society, the pope said almost 90 years ago, depends on a shared faith in the reign of Christ.

The Sacred Scriptures today use royal images for Christ. Dominion, power, glory, and kingship belong to Christ. He is to be sovereign in our lives. This means that Christ "must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies," said Pope Pius. We serve the Kingdom of God and the mission of Christ.

This transition between one liturgical year and another is a good time for reflection. During this past year, how did you allow Christ and the teachings of Christ to reign in your heart, mind, will, and body? As we approach a new liturgical year, how is God inviting you to experience the sovereignty of Christ in a clearer way?                                                                                                                           

 


November 18, 2018: Thinking About the “End” Times

Thinking About the “End” Times

Today we celebrate the second last Sunday in this liturgical year. In two weeks we begin the season of Advent with a new liturgical year. Our focus shifts to what we call the “end times.” This is signaled by the words “In those days” in today’s gospel and in the reading from the prophet Daniel.

We use the word “end” in two different ways. One sense of the word is about termination or completion – like the end of a movie or the end of a challenging ordeal. Another sense of the word has to do with the goal or purpose of a project or task we undertake. This second sense of “end” connotes fulfillment and accomplishment. Both senses of the word apply to our Christian living. The day will come for each of us when our pilgrimage on earth will be completed. At certain times we muse about the goal and purpose of our lives.

Using both senses of this word, what do you see as the goal and purpose of your life? How do you want to be remembered once your pilgrimage of faith is completed?

 


November 11, 2018: A Tale of Two Widows

A Tale of Two Widows

Today's Liturgy of the Word highlights two widows -- a widow and her son who are near starvation living north of ancient Israel and a widow in the Jerusalem Temple who donates her last two coins to the Temple treasury. The first woman does not hesitate to offer a meal to Elijah in the spirit of hospitality to a stranger. The second widow does not hesitate to give all she has to support the upkeep of the Temple.

It is stirring to ponder how these women are so generous in their poverty. We stand at a distance to contemplate their generosity as they look beyond themselves. What motivates them to be this way? Perhaps it is their experience of God toward them as described in today's Psalm (146). It is the Lord God who feeds the hungry, sustains the widow, and raises up those who are bowed down.

Prayerfully spend some time with Psalm 146. Think about how God is toward you with compassion in your vulnerability and weakness. Then think about how you can be toward others in a generous way -- like God.

 


November 4, 2018: With Whole-hearted Love

With Whole-hearted Love

In today’s gospel we hear Jesus describing the two great commandments. We are to love God with every dimension of our humanity – mind, heart, soul, strength. And we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. These are the greatest commandments, Jesus tells us. When we observe them whole-heartedly we are not far from the Kingdom of God.

We express our love of God every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist. In today’s Psalm (number 18) we use very direct language about this love: “I love you, O Lord, my strength.” This Psalm verse can be a little prayer we call to mind throughout the week as we go about our daily living. We express our love of neighbor when we compassionately reach out to persons who are experiencing challenges physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. We are to love God with the whole of our humanity. We are to love our neighbors who seek wholeness and serenity in their lives.

At this time in your life, how are you called to grow in whole-hearted love of God? How are you being called to love others in a way that helps them to come to wholeness?

 


October 28, 2018: There is Seeing and There is Seeing

Throughout the gospels various questions are put on the lips of Jesus. They include, “What are you looking for?” and “Who do you say that I am?” In today’s gospel we hear another one: “What do you want me to do for you?” The question is asked of Bartimaeus, who is blind. At first glance it would seem that the response would be quite obvious. Bartimaeus wants to be able to physically see again. And indeed Jesus heals him of his physical blindness.

But there is another level of meaning happening in this encounter. The physical sight granted to Bartimaeus symbolizes the insight necessary for any follower of Christ. Jesus says, “Go your way, your faith has saved you.” The gift of faith helps all of us to “see” and experience the healing and saving way that Christ is toward us all the time. Imagine that Christ is asking you this important question. In the context of faith, how would you respond?

 


October 21, 2018: The Throne of Grace

The Throne of Grace

Our second reading at Sunday Mass for a stretch of weeks is from the Letter to the Hebrews. The author is unknown. It is different in format from Paul's various letters. It is really more of treatise or reflection on the mystery of Christ. Throughout this New Testament book Jesus is called the great high priest. In the Old Testament the priests were the ones who sacrificed lambs, pigeons, and other animals to God as atonement for sins. Jesus' own sacrifice on the cross makes it unnecessary to keep offering these sacrifices. He is the once-and-for-all sacrifice for our atonement with God.

In every celebration of the Eucharist we re-present ourselves to this saving mystery of Christ. "We approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help" as it says in today's reading. What is it like for you to approach the throne of grace?

 

 Fr. Tom Krenik

 


October 14, 2018: Are You Ready for the Answer?

Someone ran up to Jesus with great excitement and enthusiasm and knelt before him. He asked Jesus what he must do. It becomes a dramatic encounter. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” and told him what he must do. Jesus affirmed the person’s sincerity and integrity. Jesus asked him to let go of some things so that he could more fully embrace someone. Jesus invited him into his company. But in the next scene the person’s “face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” He became gloomy and dark.

This gospel text calls each of us to do a self-examination. What is more valuable and important to me? Possessions or relationships? The things I own or my relationship with Christ? Focusing only on myself and what I want or allowing myself to be a channel of God’s mercy and love and peace?

Prayerfully imagine yourself as this person running up to Jesus. For what would you ask? What would Jesus say? How would you respond?

 Fr. Tom Krenik

 


October 7, 2018: Back to the Beginning

Back To the Beginning

The Bible begins and ends with wedding imagery. In Genesis we are told how God creates men and women in the image and likeness of God. In today’s Genesis reading we hear how a man and a woman become one flesh in the experience of marriage. The Book of Revelation ends with imagery of the wedding day of the Lamb. It points us to the intimate relationship between God and God’s people, between Christ and the Church.

In today’s gospel, Jesus takes us back to the beginning when Pharisees question him about marriage and divorce. Jesus asks them and us to uphold God’s original design for men and women in Christian marriage. He also asks for an honest look for any hardness of hearts. Such “sclerosis” of the heart must be tempered with mercy and compassion – which also originate with God.

What married couples stand out for you as examples of the unity and equality that are at the heart of Christian marriage? How does God’s mercy soften your heart?

 


September 30, 2018: What To Do and What Not To Do

What To Do and What Not To Do

The Liturgy of the Word today has a simple yet challenging message for us: accept the good service of others – even if they are not “one of us” and eliminate the root causes of sin in our lives.

In both the first reading and the gospel marvelous spirit-led things happen through people who are not formally part of the expected group to do such wonderful things. Moses and Jesus both say, “do not try to stop them.” This Biblical teaching is echoed in the Vatican II document titled Declaration On the Relation of the Church To Non-Christian Religions: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these non-Christian religions. It has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from its own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth that enlightens all men and women” (n. 2). 

We need to be careful not to stifle what originates with God in people whose culture or religion is different from ours. What we can and must do is cooperate with God to get at the root of our prejudice, intolerance, jealousy, envy, and selfishness so that God can do the purifying work of healing in the root of such evils.

When have you experienced someone very different from you doing good for others? How does God help you to get at the root of sin in your life?

Fr. Thomas W. Krenik, Pastor


September 23, 2018: The Mystery of Faith

The Mystery of Faith

One of the common threads of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) is a literary technique of three announcements of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection spread throughout the gospel. Today we hear the second of those three announcements in Mark’s gospel. This is a way of emphasizing this mystery. It is at the heartbeat of our Christian faith.

This paschal mystery is the core of each celebration of the Eucharist. We call to mind this saving mystery. We represent ourselves to the saving effects of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, for our good, for our salvation. At each Mass, after the institution narrative of the Last Supper, the priest sings, “The mystery of faith.” We all sing one of three acclamations. Lately we have been singing, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”

What helps you to keep in mind this saving mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection?

 


September 16, 2018: A Real Question. A Real Response.

A Real Question. A Real Response.

Throughout the gospel Jesus asks important questions. Today he asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Next month we will hear the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” They were real questions asked of his first disciples. They are also real questions for us as we hear them proclaimed in our Eucharistic assembly. They are not mere rhetorical questions. They demand a response on our part.

Today Peter speaks for all of us when he responds, “You are the Christ.” The question and response format is meant to create a conversation, a dialogue between Christ and us. Our response comes from our experience of the Risen Christ in our lives. Our response is born of our relationship with Christ. Imagine Christ asking you today, “Who do you say that I am?” How would you respond?

 

Fr. Tom Krenik

 


September 2, 2018: The Inside and the Outside

The Inside and the Outside

“They who do justice will live in the presence of God.” So we sing again and again in the psalm today as a way of keeping this Word of God close to our mind and our heart. Biblical justice weaves throughout both of the Testaments. Justice in God’s eyes is about being in right relationship with God, self, and others. It is about letting God do re-creating work within us to make these relationships right.

In the gospel Jesus emphasizes how good actions and bad actions on our part have their origin within us. Constant interior cleansing and renewal are necessary. The letter of James reminds us, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” Our actions of love and service demonstrate the rightness of relationships with God, self, and others.

What interior renewal does God want to do in your life? How are you called to be a “doer” of God’s Word?                                               

                                                                


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