Fifth Sunday of Easter

We celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Easter this weekend.  The Gospel passage from John is another of the “I am” sayings of Jesus.  He says: I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch from me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes that it bears more fruit…I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  There is a great deal of ecclesiology (theology of what it means to be Church) in this Scripture passage.  How often have we heard that the Pope is the vicar of Christ on earth?  How often have we been made aware that the priest acts and prays in persona Christi (in the person of Christ)?  How often have we  been reminded that the ministry of priests, deacons, pastors, pastoral administrators, and lay ministers is an extension of the ministry of the Bishop.  We belong to an Institution called the Church whose structure is hierarchical, which does not discount the other models of who we are as Church: Community, Sacrament, Herald, Servant, Disciples of Christ.  One could look at the hierarchical structure of the Church in a negative (“rules”) or a positive (“relationships”) light.  Taking today’s Gospel as backdrop, we look at the Church as Institution in a positive light, one in which the structure of the Church is built upon relationships; when everything works together, as the vine and the branches, we are at our best.  We are not only Institution, because if each of the branches remain connected to the vine and bear fruit, we accomplish the work of Christ as we become, Community (the Body of Christ), Sacrament (of encounter with Christ who is the sacrament of our encounter with God), Herald (as we enter into the work of evangelization and continue to proclaim the Gospel in word and action), Servant (as we minister to the needs of all in our midst), and Disciples (life-long learners who grow in the knowledge of the faith and in relationship with Christ).  All of this is accomplished on a parish level through the Pastoral Council and the Commissions.  All of this translates into the following: anyone who does not stay connected to the vine essentially has cut themselves off and has no life.  Barren branches often lie scattered on the ground; just take a look and notice them everywhere now that Spring is here.  Without Christ we can do nothing.  This week as we reflect upon the Gospel, let us seriously think about our relationship with one another, with our parish church leadership (Pastoral Council and Commissions), with the Parish Staff, the Pastoral Administrator and Sacramental Minister, and with the Bishop himself and his vision for the diocese.  How do we understand the structure of parish/Church in terms of what Jesus is saying about the Vine and the Branches?  Are we connected, and are we bearing fruit?  Or are we at risk of being “thrown into the fire”?  The words of Jesus we hear today are serious and we need to take them seriously.  The last words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are: By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  

Both Saturday and Sunday, we welcome Father Bill Taylor, our “priest for occasional use,” as he calls himself.   We are grateful that he is able to cover for Father Jim today!  [As Father Jim mentioned last Sunday, he is in Portland, Oregon at the invitation of David Haas who is receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Portland].  It is always good to have Father Bill will with us.  We thank him for generously sharing the gift of himself and his sacramental ministry with us.

Today we officially begin the Catholic Services Appeal at Saint John Paul II Parish.  The theme this year is:  Making a Difference – Together.  Following the Prayer after Communion, you will hear a short message from Bishop Cistone via CD.  By now, hopefully, all of you have received a mailing from the diocese which includes a letter from Bishop Cistone, a letter from me, a brochure and a pledge envelope.  As noted last week, our assessment this year is $64,659.00.  We have already received a few pledges this past week.  Please prayerfully discern and consider how you can best support CSA this year.  You may be interested in knowing that it is because of CSA funds that Father Jim is able to be our Sacramental Minister.  What a blessing it is to have him with us!  Time and time again, I hear parishioners say how much they appreciate his homilies and liturgies.  CSA totally funds Father Jim’s salary.  Saint John Paul II Parish only pays his mileage.    

Parish registrations continue to come in to the parish.  As of this writing, we have 364 individual/family memberships registered; there are at least 25 more registrations that have not yet been processed.

Beginning this Monday, May 4, Morning Prayer will begin taking place at the main parish church site. Prayer begins at 8:45 a.m.  If you are able, please join us for Morning Prayer this Monday.  If you have never attended Morning Prayer, you may be interested in knowing what takes place as part of the Official Prayer of the Church (from the Liturgy of the Hours).  The structure and outline of Morning Prayer includes: an Invitatory, a Hymn, two psalms recited together, sometimes with a sung antiphon  (followed by psalm prayers), and Old Testament Canticle, a Scripture Reading, reflection, The Canticle of Zachary (sung), Intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer, Greeting of Peace, Blessing, and Dismissal.

May Crowning will take place this Thursday, May 7, at 6:00 p.m. in Church.    You may be interested in knowing that it was our patron, Pope John Paull II who promulgated the Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary on March 25, 1981.  It is the same rite we will be using in the context of the Liturgy of the Word on Thursday.   If you have some flowers in bloom in your yard, you may want to bring one or two to place in the vases near the statue of Mary on Thursday.

One final note I would like to share with to share with you is that our maintenance man, Jim Oskvarek, will be retiring on May 15.  He asked to place a note in today’s bulletin, so be sure to read it.  It is located below Upcoming Events. 


Blessings on your Easter Days!

Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ