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Fr. Tom’s Reflections

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?                                               

                                                                


August 26, 2018: Decision Time

There is a clear sense in the Word of God today of the importance of making a purposeful choice and decision to serve God and to be in Christ’s company. Joshua boldly acclaims before the people: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (There were all kinds of other “gods” that they could serve.) The people gathered together basically make the same acclamation as their leader Joshua. In the gospel Jesus asks the haunting question of the Twelve: “Do you want to leave me too?” (Some people found Jesus’ teachings too hard to accept.) Peter speaks for the group about their desire and decision to follow Christ.

Sometimes life can seem like we are traveling along on a choo-choo train or going in circles on a merry-go-round. There is a mindlessness about it. Something seems to be taking us along and we are passive participants. Today we are reminded that we are to be active participants in the journey of faith and life. We need to make a conscious, whole-hearted decision to follow Christ and to serve the Lord faithfully by loving God and our neighbor.

How deep is your decision to follow Christ in this twenty-first century? With all the other “gods” around us, what helps you to serve the Lord God?

 


August 19, 2018: To Taste and See

Both last Sunday and today the Psalm is number 34 with the repeated refrain, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” It is a way of emphasizing this imagery during these summer days when we ponder the meaning of the Bread of Life Discourse from John’s gospel proclaimed in our assembly.

The human sense of taste is a wonderful experience. It slows us down so that we can savor and delight in what we are eating. It makes the process of eating more than a functional or even mechanical experience of trying to fill our stomachs. To taste and savor our food makes the experience something deeper, something more meaningful. It helps us to cherish the goodness of our meal and the pleasure of dining. In the Eucharist we taste of God’s goodness in the sacrament we share.

How does the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist help you to taste and see the goodness of the Lord?


August 12, 2018: A Broom Tree or The Bread of Life

Today we hear a rather silly story about Elijah sitting under a broom tree in the desert. As the name suggests, a broom tree is small, spindly and doesn’t provide much shade. Elijah is mad and disillusioned that things have not gone his way. People are not responding with joy and enthusiasm to his prophetic words. He even prays for death! An angel touches him and encourages him to get up, eat, and be nourished so that he can continue the journey.

Have you ever felt like sitting under a broom tree, frustrated and disappointed that things haven’t gone your way? Perhaps you have found strength and encouragement from other people or directly from God. It may even have felt like a divine messenger was touching you. This is one of the ways we experience Jesus being the Bread of Life as he reminds us again in today’s gospel. Bread that nourishes and Life that is somehow deep and meaningful.

 


August 5, 2018: Bread from Heaven

Today we hear Jesus acclaim: “I am the Bread of Life.” This is one of several “I am” statements of Jesus in John’s gospel. The evangelist uses this literary device as a way of manifesting to us who the Lord Jesus Christ is for us. It follows the marvelous multiplication of the loaves and fish to feed a hungry crowd. It points us to each celebration of Eucharist as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

 

The refrain for today’s psalm (number 78) is “The Lord gave them bread from heaven.” This psalm links the teaching of the gospel with the first reading’s story of the ancient Israelites being fed with manna that mysteriously falls from the heavens upon the earth during the night. The heaven-sent mana and the heaven-sent Bread of Life are dramatic ways in which God’s loving care is showered upon us.

How does the celebration of the Eucharist help you to know God’s loving and nourishing way toward us? How can you help other people to appreciate God’s nourishing and sustaining care?


July 29, 2018: Satisfying Human Hunger

Today we hear one of six versions of the story of the multiplication of the loaves of bread and fish that appear in the gospels. Six narrations of the event tells us a lot about its significance at that time and its importance as a way of showing how Christ is toward us in all kinds of hungers. This will be followed with four Sunday gospels readings from the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. It is called the Bread of Life discourse.

In John’s version of this scene (which we hear today), Jesus himself distributes the loaves and fish to the crowd. In the other gospels Jesus asks his disciples to distribute them. Both approaches demonstrate God’s compassion for those who hunger. This includes physical hunger as well as hunger for spiritual nourishment, meaning, hope, and the truth.

What hungers does the Lord satisfy in you? How does God want to use you to help satisfy the hunger of others?

 


July 22, 2018: How the Lord Shepherds Us

The imagery of the Lord being our Shepherd weaves throughout the Liturgy of the Word today – from the prophet Jeremiah, in Psalm 23, and in the gospel. Shepherds were very commonplace in Biblical times. This is a good example of how Jesus and the Scripture writers used things in everyday life to help us appreciate how God is toward us.

Psalm 23 gives us word-picture of three ways in which the Lord is our Good Shepherd: he goes ahead of us, leading and guiding; he is right by our side to give comfort and courage; he follows behind with goodness and kindness and peace. So there is this sense of literally being surrounded by the Lord’s presence as we journey in faith, hope, and love.

How do you know the presence of Lord as the Good Shepherd in your life? How is God inviting you to be with people in a shepherding way?


July 15, 2018: We Are Other Christs

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2782) we find this marvelous sentence: "We can adore the Father because he has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son: by Baptism, he incorporates us in the Body of his Christ; through the anointing of his Spirit who flows from the head to the members, he makes us other 'Christs'."

The Catechism gives us the theological meaning of being baptized and confirmed persons. The gospel today gives us a sense of what this looked like for the Twelve apostles and what it looks like for us. Christ gives us authority. We represent him. We are to help bring hope and healing to other people.

When has someone been a Christ to you? When have you realized that you have been another Christ to someone?


July 8, 2018: The Sufficiency of Grace

In today’s Mass, we hear St. Paul telling us about his experience of what he calls “a thorn in the flesh.” He does not tell us exactly what he meant. It leaves us to wonder, was it something physical, psychological, and spiritual? Three times he asks the Lord Jesus to remove it from his life experience. Then he hears the divine message: “My grace is sufficient for you.” In his weakness, Paul becomes more keenly aware of the strong presence of Christ in his life.

There are times we experience such a “thorn.” We might describe it as “a pain in the neck.” It is bothersome and we would like to get rid of it. Like Paul, we need to welcome the strong and saving presence of Christ who is present to us in our weaknesses. Then our emphasis is on Christ’s loving presence and accompaniment with us rather than complaining about our troubles.

When have you sensed Christ saying to you, “my grace is sufficient for you”?

 


July 1, 2018: The Healing Touch of Christ Jesus

Today’s gospel includes two marvelous healing stories – a twelve year old girl whois at the point of death and a woman who has been suffering with hemorrhages for twelve years. The number twelve is significant. It signifies the new people of Israel, the new people of God, the community of believers living today. Through Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, God has the power to bring us healing and to raise us up.

The sense of touch is involved in both healings. Jesus took the girl by the hand and raised her up. The woman reached out and touched the cloak of Jesus. This healing touch of Jesus is part of the celebration of the sacrament of anointing of the sick today. The risen Christ continues to reach out and touch us in a healing and hopeful way.

When have you experienced the presence of Christ reaching out to you? When have you been an instrument of the healing touch of Christ reaching out to other people?

 


June 24, 2018: The Birth of John the Baptist

Today we celebrate the feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist. The Bible readings for this feast take the place of the regular Sunday readings. Today’s feast occurs near the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere just as the daylight begins to diminish. Six months from now we celebrate the feast of the nativity of Christ near the shortest day of the year just as the daylight begins to increase. This connects with what John the Baptist says in John’s gospel: “[Christ] must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

This saying of John must also be our motto as we journey in faith, hope, and love on this earth. Any self-absorption must be replaced with the light of Christ radiating more clearly in our lives and in our world. How do you experience this needed and necessary transformation?

 


June 17, 2018: Mystery Seeds

In today’s gospel Jesus uses the imagery of a tiny mustard seed that grows and matures. The mustard plant is a nuisance weed. It is not planted by humans but mysteriously seems to appear here and there. Jesus uses this parable to help us appreciate the mystery of the Kingdom of God. Irrespective of the efforts and projects of human beings, God seems to sow the beginnings and potential of the reign of God taking root within us and among us.

Sometimes we may be surprised by the beginnings of heavenly and godly things that spring up among us, like an unexpected wave of peace or forgiveness or initiative to repair a relationship. We know that this “seed” comes from God rather than from our careful planning.

When have you noticed these mystery seeds being planted? How do you respond to them?

 


June 10, 2018

In my absence, I have asked one of our lay presiders who leads the weekday Word and Communion Service to offer a reflection on the Sunday readings.

Scripture is filled with references to houses and Sunday’s Gospel is no exception.  These references should come as no surprise, after all Jesus was a carpenter and will speak to what is familiar.  If Jesus were living today, in the era of television, would He have a program on HGTV called Fixer Uppers or even Flip or Flop, shows taking houses ranking from eew to not-so-bad and candidates for improvement prior to becoming an everlasting home?  Jesus, the carpenter, knows the need for a good foundation.  Before any building can continue to be built the foundation has to be set, conditioned and in good shape.  A good carpenter is aware of the need for load bearing walls/posts and other safety factors, before highlighting the must haves of an open concepts, a  kitchen island for all to gather around.  Our homes, our parish community, ourselves are reminded to keep our foundation and all parts of our home in good repair. A house divided against it-self will not last.  In a good faith filled home God is at the center, doors are open and welcoming, food is shared in friendship and service with love for all.  Does your house need a little (or a lot) of fixing up?  Is it in need of a good Carpenter?  If so, we all know One we can personally recommend. 

                                                                                                 Barbara Skierecki, Lay Minister

 


June 3, 2018

In my absence, I have asked one of our lay presiders who leads the weekday Word and Communion Service to offer a reflection on the Sunday readings.

Definition of a sacrament:  An outward sign to give grace.  Today we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, Corpus Christi, a sacrament central to our faith and spiritual lives. We believe that the consecrated bread and wine is the Body and Blood of Christ, not separate, but one. Body/bread which nourishes us and the blood/wine which saves us – separate and yet the same. But are we aware that we have entered into a contract, most importantly a covenant, with God, in this sacrament? A covenant needs two parties:  God and us.  God leads, saves, gives life to us, as witnessed by the sprinkling of blood on the door posts that all within will live in the Hebrew Scriptures; while,   Paul in his letters  and Mark in the Gospel remind us that Jesus, is the Word of God, whose blood was shed as a sign of the Covenant of God with humankind. 

Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, Take it, this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  He said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

Today’s emphasis on the Body and Blood of Christ reminds us that we, too, have a role to play in the Covenant which was sealed with blood of the Lamb of God. What is our part in the covenant?   What do we do in return?  How do we use our body and blood to honor our part of the covenant? Perhaps, this is something we can pray over when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ?

 


May 27, 2018: The Most Holy Trinity

One of the first prayers we learn as children is the sign of the cross: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Parents teach their children how to trace the cross on their bodies with this prayer. Our whole body person is involved in this prayer. Today's gospel records the words of Jesus we use at each Baptism: "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." This Trinitarian formula has been around since at least 80 AD when Matthew wrote his gospel.

The mystery of the Trinity is the central mystery of our faith and our life. All of the other mysteries of our faith flow from this one. All of our Christian living centers around this divine mystery. We experience God as the Creator and Source of all life. We are redeemed by the death of resurrection of Christ. We constantly experience the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When are you most aware of these three "persons" of God?


May 20, 2018: Pentecost Continues

Today we celebrate the glorious feast of Pentecost. The word “Pentecost” means “50th” and concludes the Easter season. On Monday we return to Ordinary Time until next Advent.

We often think about Pentecost as an historical event. This mysterious experience for the early Christians is always related in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. However, there are actually five separate accounts of the dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit on believers. (See Acts 2:1-4; 4:28-31; 8:15-17; 10:44; 19:6.) This book of the Bible is often referred to as the “Book of the Holy Spirit” because of these various accounts. All of these experiences lead to deeper faith and witness to the presence and action of the Risen Christ in the midst of believers. These kinds of experiences continue in our day. In the gospel today Jesus relates how the Holy Spirit will come and guide us to all truth.

In what ways have you experienced a kind of outpouring of the Holy Spirit? What positive impact has this had in your life?

 


May 13, 2018 Ascending with Christ

I have read a wonderful book titled Upward: Faith, Church, and the Ascension of Christ by Anthony Kelly (2014). He writes about the "'ascensional' dynamism of Jesus' whole existence." We, along with Christ, are taken up in the upward call of God (see Phil. 3:14).

The ascension of Christ is often taken for granted and often neglected as an essential dimension of the paschal mystery. Kelly describes how our lives and our mission as followers of Christ are taken up in this upward movement, beyond what can be the mundane concerns of our daily existence. It is about paying attention to how God wants to draw us and take us up more and more into God's hope and design for us.

How do you experience this upward call of God? When do you experience being drawn up into godly and Christ-like things?

 

 


May 6, 2018: God is the Source

The earliest descriptions of God the Father, the first Person of the Trinity, are as the Creator, the Source, the Originator. Sometimes the image of a fountain is used. That is why we speak of the baptismal fount, the source of our life in Christ. And in the second Eucharistic prayer we pray, “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness.” That is why Jesus says in today’s gospel, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” Similarly, in the letter of John we hear, “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.”

This glorious Easter season helps us to trace our life and all our blessings to our gracious God. How do you experience God as the Source in your life?

 


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