11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Open Wide the Doors to Christ”

This weekend, as we celebrate the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, we welcome Father José Cabrera (Pastor of All Saints Parish in Bay City) and Father Bill Taylor, our favorite “Priest for Occasional Use” (as he calls himself).  I am very grateful to both of them for being willing and able to fill in for Father Jim (as it is getting more and more difficult to find substitute priests for Sunday Masses).  I know you will give each of them a warm welcome.  It is always enjoyable to experience liturgy and homilies with other priests in our diocese.  Father José will be celebrating the 4:00 PM Mass and Father Bill will be celebrating the 9:30 AM Mass.

As you know, last weekend Father Jim announced to us that he and Deacon Matt Federico would be in Rome meeting up with Matthew Gembrowski and his family.  Matthew has just finished up his second semester term of studies which took place in Rome.  What a great way for Matthew to spend a few days of vacation time there with his family!  Please continue to pray for Matthew, Deacon Matt, and all our seminarians, as well as for an increase in vocations to the Priesthood.  

Happy Father’s Day to all Fathers!  Today we remember all those who serve in the various roles of father: fathers, grandfathers, God-fathers, step-fathers, foster fathers, adopted fathers, and spiritual fathers (e.g. our Bishop and priests).  Let us take some special time to express our gratitude to them for who they are, for all they have done for us, and for the opportunities they provided for us to become who we are today.  Many of our fathers have gone before us in faith.  Let us not forget to say a prayer for them and tell them about the powerful effect they have had upon our lives.   

The Gospel passage for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time is about the kingdom of God.  Jesus describes it similar to seed scattered on the ground which sprouts, grows, and yields good fruit while no one realizes it is happening.  When the grain is ripe, the harvest comes.  Jesus then compares the kingdom with the mustard seed, the tiniest of all seeds, which becomes the largest of plants.  God has planted seeds of faith, hope, and love in each of us, so that as members of his family, we might do our part in bringing about the kingdom of God.  As we further reflect upon the Gospel images this week, let us personally ask ourselves: How has my life ever been changed by a small mustard-like act of kindness or care?

Blessings on your week!

Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend, the Church resumes celebrating the Sundays in Ordinary Time.  During the Fifty-day Easter Season, with several celebrations of the sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist), and the Solemnities that followed (The Most Holy Trinity and The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ), we celebrated in a very festive manner.  We “pulled out all the stops,” so to speak.  It was done in several of the following ways:  using festive arrangements of music (sometimes including the bells on the Gloria), having the Presider sing some of the prayers (or prayer introductions) at Mass, using a full complement of ministries including both Psalmist and Cantor or Choir, having an extended Gospel Procession, repeating the Gospel Acclamation after the proclamation of the Gospel, occasionally using incense, and the extent to which the worship space/environment was enhanced.  We have been using what is called in liturgy: the principle of Progressive Solemnity.  Now, as we move back into Ordinary Time, the manner of our celebration will change a bit; as we have reached a crescendo, we enter into a bit of a decrescendo.  Just as in our own lives, we don’t always live on an emotional high, nor do we celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, ordinary days, or summer vacation in the same way, so, too, in the Church, we have the same kind of ebb and flow when it comes to liturgical celebrations.  So, how will we celebrate Ordinary Time at Saint John Paul II Parish?  What differences will we notice?  The Parish Worship Commission had a conversation this past Tuesday regarding this question.  In the course of the conversation, the suggestion was made to explain the principle of Progressive Solemnity to the parish (thus, my column this week).  During Ordinary Time, we will be using the simplest of the options for the Penitential Act which will be found in the Worship Aid.  The Book of the Gospels will be placed upon the Altar before Mass begins (emphasizing the unity between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist) which means a lector will not be carrying it in the Entrance Procession (saving that ritual action for Solemnities, and the Christmas and Easter Seasons when there is also a lengthier Gospel Procession).  As you know, we have been using the Apostles’ Creed during Ordinary Time and will continue to do so.  You will also note, as has been the practice, you will see more green plants and fewer flowers and the church environment will be simpler and less adorned.  We will continue singing a variety of music but a single individual will act as psalmist and cantor.  All of this will reflect the principle of Progressive Solemnity:  the difference between the celebration of Ordinary Time, and the “high Holy Days.”

Todays’ Gospel passage calls us to reflect upon unity.  Jesus says, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”   This week, let us reflect upon the ways in which we contribute to unity within our families, our neighborhoods, our places of work, our schools, and our parish.

Blessings on your week!

Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  As Catholics we believe in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  Because of this we have the utmost respect and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament when we receive it, when it is reserved in the tabernacle, and when we take it to the sick, the hospitalized, the homebound, and the dying.  We genuflect before the tabernacle out of adoration for the Christ who is present in the reserved sacrament.  We take seriously the words of Jesus who said, “Do this in memory of me,” at the Last Supper when he gave us the gift of himself.  Eucharist is the Bread of Life which sustains us as disciples of Christ, and as members of the Church, the Body of Christ.  We are called to become what we receive so that all whom we encounter may experience Christ and his love and compassion through us.  Being a Eucharistic people means that we are a people of thanksgiving and unity, unity that comes from inclusive love.  Let us reflect upon this great gift of Christ’s presence in our lives.  May we never take it for granted.  May we continue to deepen our appreciation for this wonderful gift of Eucharist!

Congratulations to our parish high school and college Graduates!  Many of them are joining us for the 9:30 AM Mass this weekend as we celebrate our annual Mass with the Graduates.  We wish them God’s richest blessings and we pray that they may find fulfilling employment opportunities to use their God-given gifts and talents.  Many of our grads are involved in liturgical ministry within the parish.  We thank them for placing their gifts at the service of the Church and community.  May the Lord bless them and keep them, make his face to shine upon them, be gracious to them and give them peace!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers for my sister, Diana Paige, her family, my mom, and my siblings throughout her struggle with cancer.  Your cards, texts, messages, calls, supportive words, and offers of assistance have been greatly appreciated.  Diana had a very aggressive form of cancer and encountered several complications throughout the course of  her treatment (including three surgeries).  The last few weeks were really rough for her, but never did I hear a complaint.  She bravely walked every step of the way with her doctors and our family.  She never wavered in her faith, and in the midst of it all, continued to smile and be filled with hope.  My family had some very special time with her these past weeks, including some one-on-one time.  I treasure deeply the time I was able to spend with her.  I will miss Diana very much but I know she is present to me in a new way, a spiritual way, without the boundaries of time and space.  I am very happy for her that she now is reunited with her husband, Doug, and with my dad whose death she took very hard 44 years ago.  Diana is a twin to my brother, David; he is taking her death very hard.  Please especially pray for him as you continue to pray for all of us who mourn Diana’s death.

Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

After a glorious celebration of the Solemnity of Pentecost, this Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  We take time to reflect upon one of the major dogmas of our faith.  We believe in One God in whom there are three persons.  God has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God who is Creator of the world, Jesus Christ who is the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and guides the Church are one and the same God who is ever-present to us.  We profess our belief in the Trinity every time we pray, by making the sign of the cross.  Every sacrament we celebrate proclaims this mystery of the Triune God.  The longer form of the ending of the Collects and other prayers in each of the ritual books is: through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.  The Doxology which concludes the Eucharistic Prayer at each Mass is: Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, For ever and ever. Amen.  Every time we receive a blessing, the priest prays: May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Those of us who pray the psalms as part of the Liturgy of Hours each day always end them with the prayer: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.  There are many times that we profess our belief in the Most Holy Trinity.  The last one I will mention is the Profession of Faith we make every Sunday, whether the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, or the Renewal of Baptismal Promises.  Can you think of some other examples?  This week let us reflect upon how each person of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is active in our daily lives.

Please note the various Masses being celebrated on Memorial Day at our Catholic Cemeteries.  They are listed in today’s bulletin.

Next Sunday, June 3, our parish will celebrate Mass with our high school and college graduates.  They and their families are invited to breakfast following Mass in the Parish Center Meeting Room.  Please RSVP to the Parish Office by Thursday at Noon if you will be present for Mass and the breakfast.  Either call 755-0828 or email office@stjohnpauliicc.org.

My sister Diana would like you to know how much she appreciates your thoughts, prayers, well wishes, and birthday greetings.  Please continue to pray for her.

Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ

Pentecost Sunday

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  We call to mind the birth of the Church when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples.  They were filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit: courageously and joyfully, they were impelled to proclaim the Good News of Salvation to “people of every nation.”  What a powerful experience of God working through a community of believers who made a difference in their world!  Today’s Gospel passage helps us clearly understand that the Pentecost experience was not the first or only time the disciples received the Holy Spirit.  After imparting his peace to them, Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  We know that the Spirit bestows a variety of gifts upon us, whatever we need at a given moment, if we rely upon him.  Sometimes the presence of the Spirit in our lives makes a quiet difference, and sometimes it makes a bold difference.  I know that the Holy Spirit is quietly working within Saint John Paul II Parish and each of us individually is making a difference by the gifts we are putting at the service of the Church.  We have been reminded often this Easter Season that we have received the Holy Spirit: every time we have celebrated a baptism, each time we have witnessed the completion of the sacraments of Initiation with First Eucharist, each Sunday we ourselves have celebrated the sacrament of Eucharist, and each time we have taken part in the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.   The calling forth of the Holy Spirit takes place in every sacrament we celebrate.  Not only the gifts of the Spirit, but also the fruits of the Spirit are operative in the Church in every age.   Just think what a difference it would make if each member of our parish opens his or her heart to the Holy Spirit this Pentecost and becomes filled anew with the fire of Christ’s love.  What if each of us courageously and joyfully proclaims the Gospel in word and action to all whom we encounter each day?  We can make a bold difference.  Our lives and our world would be filled with more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity – in other words, the fruits of the Holy Spirit! 

Today, all of us have the opportunity to place our gifts at the service of the Church.  Please discern the best manner in which you are able to share your gifts and return the sign-up cards in the collection these next two weekends.

Congratulations to Logan and Andrea Meyers on the Baptism of your daughter, Audrey Lou!  May God bless you and your family. As you raise your daughter in the faith, please be assured of the continued prayers and support of Saint John Paul II Parish family. 

Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ