Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I am writing this weekend’s article Monday evening, August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.  This feast has always been one of my favorites.  This year it has added significance because at 2:43 PM my mother, Mary Rose Gretka, was invited to join Jesus, Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration.  She saw Christ face to face and was transformed.   All was made new for her: no more pain or suffering, no more wheel chair or leg brace, no more hearing loss or lapse of memory, and no more declining health.  Mom not only met Christ, but was reunited with her husband Walter after 44 years of being a widow and she also was reunited with her daughter Diana, who died this past May.  What joy she must have experienced in seeing them again, along with her parents, her brothers and sister, and the many relatives and friends who have gone before her in faith!  Losing a mother and a sister in the space of 73 days is difficult.  I know God has a plan for each of us and my mother and sister have completed all that God has called them to be and do on this earth.  They have touched many lives and have gifted our family in so many ways.  I am so grateful for the faith my mother and father passed on to us children, and the strong family ties she and my dad helped create among us.  I am certain that faith and family will sustain us in the days ahead.  I know we will be transformed in some way by her death just as she was on August 6.  With death comes not only grief, but deep gratitude for what has been, and joy in the gift of eternal life.  I firmly believe that, as the Funeral Vigil Liturgy states, “all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death.”  My mom and sister, Diana, and all who have passed from death to eternal life, are only a thought or a memory away.  Spiritual presence is powerful; we experience it in Word and Sacrament, and through death, our ultimate share in the Paschal Mystery of Christ.  As Christ lives, so now my mother, Mary, lives.  May the Angels welcome her into Paradise!    

This weekend we celebrate the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Saint John’s Gospel continues with the Bread of Life discourse.  Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  We have the opportunity to receive the “living bread” often in the Eucharist.  Do we truly realize the gift Jesus has given us?  Let us pray for a deeper appreciation of Christ’s presence in this life-giving sacrament and never take it for granted.

Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend we celebrate the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  In today’s Gospel, the crowds go to Capernaum looking for Jesus.  When they find him and question him as to when he arrived, Jesus tells them they are not seeking him because they saw signs, but because they ate the loaves he provided and were filled.  We know Jesus cared for their physical needs in feeding them, but in doing so, they did not see the deeper meaning in what was being done for them and to them.  They missed the sign (the revelation) and did not realize who Jesus was - the very person in their midst who performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  We have the advantage of faith, and the testimony of the Twelve along with the Evangelists and all those who have gone before us in faith who have shared their stories of who Jesus is, how he walked this earth, cared for people, gave his life for all, left us the gift of himself, and who reigns in heaven with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The crowds followed Jesus and walked with him in his ministry, and still struggled with faith in him.  We ourselves, who walk by faith, experience signs (and even miracles, sometimes), and still sometimes struggle in really getting to know Jesus, the Christ.  It takes some of us a very long time to really understand how close he is to us, how he dwells within us, how he will never forsake us, and how he only wants what is best for us.  All we have to do is leave ourselves completely open to his love and his gifts.  We have so much for which to be grateful when it comes to the presence of Christ in our midst.  One line that especially stands out for me in today’s Gospel is: “Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”   Jesus indeed has given us food that endures for eternal life.  He has given us himself in the Eucharist.  We have the opportunity to take part in the Eucharistic meal each weekend, and even on weekdays, in spite of the shortage of priests we are experiencing in the Church these days.    Let us never take this gift for granted.  Let us daily give thanks to God for the Bread of Life he has provided us through his Son, Jesus. 

PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE WILL BE 6:30 PM MASS on Tuesdays during the month of August.  The Liturgical Ministers for this Tuesday, August 7, are:

Sacristan:                             Judy LaVigne
Altar Server:                       Deb Popielarz
Lector:                                  Ed Popielarz
EM of Holy Communion:  Cindy and Wes Lamont

Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This last weekend of July we celebrate the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The Gospel passage is taken from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.  For five weeks in a row, we will hear passages from that same chapter which begins with the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  This particular miracle by Jesus is the only one contained in all four Gospels.  John’s theology is profound because his focus is upon Jesus who takes the initiative in asking Philip: Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?  (In the other evangelists’ accounts, a disciple approaches Jesus).   Jesus is concerned about the people and takes charge of the situation.  The crowd that witnesses this miracle clearly see it as a sign that Jesus is a prophet.  The story has Eucharistic overtones which will unfold for us in the coming weeks’ Gospel passages.  Jesus is not only concerned about fulfilling the human and physical needs of people.  He also greatly desires to satisfy their spiritual needs.   That includes all of us.  He gives of himself totally for us, and, thus, eventually gives himself totally to us.   Jesus understands the significance of eating with others.  Special things take place at meals and around the table.  We are nourished not only by the food prepared for us, but by the conversations that take place, the stories shared, and our acceptance and affirmation of one another.  We reach out and minister to one another in subtle ways around the table.   As a child, I treasured family meals, especially Sunday morning breakfast.  Growing up, my mom, dad and the six of us children went to 9:30 AM Mass together.  We arrived a half hour early and sat in the third pew from the front (middle aisle) because mom thought it was important for us to see what was going on at Mass.  When we returned home, it was a group project getting breakfast together.  My dad usually cooked breakfast (eggs to order along with bacon).  Some of us were responsible for setting the table, pouring the juice and water as others were making the toast, while others ran around the house and made up the beds (which did not get made before church).  We had a great time, sometimes even talking about the sermon (as it was called in those days).  Of course, some of us were on dish duty after breakfast and conversation continued.  Unlike today’s Gospel, there were hardly any fragments to gather up (and save for left-overs).    

Speaking of meals, did you know that two of the many names given to the Eucharist are: The Lord’s Supper and The Supper of the Lamb?  More on that next week.

Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We celebrate the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time this weekend.  In the Gospel passage, Jesus is gathered with the apostles and he invites them: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”   People are coming at them from all sides, and they do not even have the opportunity to eat, so Jesus encourages them to take care of themselves for a bit before they continue ministering to others.  Many of us have had the experience of “full and hectic days” when we seem to be running about in many directions.  We short-change ourselves as we try to keep up with what sometimes seems an unrealistic pace.  It happens in our homes, within our families, at work, in our generosity to volunteer in different organization, and even in ministry.  We know how important it is to have a healthy balance in our lives.  Jesus, too, knew the importance of having balance between time for God, for self, and for others.  When we care for ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually, then we can better care for others in all of those ways.  Jesus suggests a “deserted place.”  We don’t necessarily have to go a great distance to find a “deserted place” or a “holy place.”  Some of us are able to find them in our own homes, or in our own rooms.  Others find them outdoors, in a park, out for a walk, or sitting in our yard.  Some find them in church by coming early for some quiet time, or by going away to spend some time in retreat.  The special places create spaces where we can be by ourselves to rest, to read a book, to read the bible, to pray, to listen to music, or to engage in some form of creative enrichment for ourselves (scrapbooking, woodworking, writing poetry or journaling, playing a musical instrument, etc.).  To be healthy and holy individuals, we need to visit our “deserted places” often so that we can be refreshed and renewed by the Spirit of God.  Summer is often the time when many of us find time for rest and relaxation.  Hopefully, in that time, we also create some space for God and church.

You won’t be seeing me at Masses this weekend as I have taken time to go off to one of my favorite places, Nazareth (CSJ Motherhouse and Center).  This Sunday we are celebrating jubilees: Sister Janet Pewoski is celebrating her Golden Jubilee.  We are remaining for the week.  Both of us signed up for the same retreat that begins Monday.  We have an excellent retreat director, a Jesuit named, Father Matt Linn.  Please pray for us.  I am really looking forward to a spiritually enriching week!  I hope you have an enriching week as well.

Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend we celebrate the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  In the Gospel passage, Jesus sends out the Twelve, two by two, and gives them specific instructions about how they are to proceed on their journey.   Their baggage is light and their possessions are meager.  If their message is not accepted in a house, they are to leave it.  Jesus encourages them to do what they are able to do, yet he lets them know that not everyone will accept them or the message they bring.  So, they go forth preaching, driving out demons, anointing and curing the sick.  And we know, that in spite of the challenges they faced, they were effective in spreading Christ’s message.  Jesus invites not only the Twelve, but all of us as well, to carry on his work in the world.  By virtue of our baptism, we have been called to discipleship with all the responsibilities that go along with it.   We are called to teach, preach, and evangelize, beginning with our own families and our own children.  All of us are called to serve the Church in any number of ways: as priests, deacons, religious (both active and contemplative), as married couples, as committed single Catholic Christians, as lay ministers, catechists, liturgical ministers, and ministers to the sick and homebound.  Some are called to leadership positions on parish councils and commissions, as members on those councils and commissions, as members who serve the parish food pantry, as members who are part of the funeral luncheon teams, as members of the Rosary Altar Society, as members of the Knights of Columbus (and the Ladies Auxiliary), and as members of the League of Catholic Women.  The list could go on, but the bottom line is that we are all called to discipleship and our common denominator is we work together as one to serve the Church as Christ.  Our ministry is to reflect Christ to others through our words and actions at all times: to bring Christ to others.  Along with bringing Christ to others, we must see Christ in others.  Not unlike the Twelve, our material resources may seem insufficient and the message we have to share may not always be readily accepted.  However, we have been given all we need.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus helps us understand that we do not need an abundance of material possessions to carry on his work.  The less we have, the easier it is to rely on God and to make room for him to work through us.  As Christ continues to call us to share in his mission and ministry, let us pray for one another that we may be faithful to his call.  Let us also pray for those still discerning their vocation, especially those God may be calling to the priesthood, and let us encourage them on their journey!

Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ