Today we celebrate the First Sunday of Lent. In the Gospel passage from Luke, following his baptism, Jesus, led by the Spirit, enters the desert. He is tempted by the devil three times but he resists those temptations. In doing so, he teaches us that, not only he, but each of us, by virtue of our Baptism, has a call and a mission from God, and we must remain true to it. Whenever we place more importance upon ourselves, misuse our power, or “lord it over others,” we are not being true to who we have been called to be. We are created in the image and likeness of God and the very life of Christ lives within us. We are called to reflect the compassion, love, and mercy of God in our lives; we evangelize by the ways in which we speak and act. If each of us took this Year of Mercy seriously, what a different parish we would be. If each of us took the Jubilee Year of Mercy to heart, we would make a great impact upon those who doubt God’s presence in our world. If each of us avoided the temptation to criticize others (in order to make ourselves look good) and affirmed others instead; if each of us avoided the temptation to harbor grudges or constantly “beat down” others for what they believe or for what they may have said or did once upon a time and just “let go, of it”; if each of us avoided the temptation to judge others by our standards, and left that up to God; and if each of us believed in second chances for others, interpreting things in the most favorable sense, and loving without counting the cost, what a Christ-like community we would have. Just as Jesus was tempted, we are and will continue to be tempted. Just as Jesus overcame temptation, with God’s grace, we can as well. It may call for a change of heart on our part, but that is what Lent is all about. Whatever Lenten discipline we choose to embrace, it should be something we continue to practice every day of our lives. This week, let us ask ourselves what our greatest temptations are, and then let us ask the Lord Jesus to help us overcome them so that we, who are the Body of Christ, may remain true to living out that reality. The next time we encounter the devil and his cunning ways, may we have the grace and the courage to say, “Go away, Satan! I belong to God. I will have nothing to do with your ways!”
There are many opportunities for prayer and spiritual enrichment in our parish, our vicariate and our diocese these next five weeks. Hopefully, all of us saved the Lenten insert from last week’s bulletin and posted it in a prominent place. I would especially like to highlight a couple of the prayer experiences this week. First, our parish has joined four other parishes in a Pilgrimage of Mercy each Thursday evening this Lent. The parishes include the Cathedral Parish, Christ the Good Shepherd Parish, Holy Family Parish, and Saint Joseph Parish (and, of course, Saint John Paul II Parish). Each evening includes a soup supper and a speaker who will address one of the following topics: forgiveness, the Corporal Works of Mercy, and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. The pilgrimage begins at the Cathedral Parish this Thursday with soup supper at 5:30 PM and a presentation on forgiveness by Father Bert Gohm. The second prayer opportunity I would like to highlight this week is that the Church will remain open until 3:00 PM on the Sundays of Lent for Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This opportunity was provided during the Advent Season and favorable comments were received along with expressions of hope that this might be available again.
Special thanks to the many individuals who worked both on the Mardi Gras Party last weekend and the Paczki Sale this past week. Both were very successful. It was good to see many new faces working together on these two events. As I walked around the gym several times last Saturday I heard numerous comments about what a wonderful experience the Mardi Gras Party was. People appreciated celebrating with a varied age group (including those in college and those who recently graduated from college). People enjoyed the food, name tags, the games, and the music. Congratulations to our 50/50 raffle winner, Diana Bismack, who won $198.00! Thanks to all present for anticipating my birthday with a cake and song! As for the Paczki sale, I was there for some time both Monday morning and Monday afternoon. I saw that there were some parishioners “learning new parts of the process” of producing the paczki. This year we received many more pre-orders than last year, which is great. Monday afternoon when we temporarily ran out of paczki, people were told that they could wait a half hour or order for the next day. Many chose to wait and were very patient and friendly as all “the workers teamed” together to fill orders for them. There were even people in line “paying it forward” - buying the next order for the person waiting in line behind them. Thanks to parishioners who spent long hours and long days to make the Paczki Sale a success – to continue a tradition of the “best paczki in town.” Pictures were taken of both events: the Mardi Gras Party and the Paczki Sale. You will see some of them soon, if you have not already checked out Saint John Paul II Facebook page.
My mother, Mary, will be 90 years old on Monday, February 15! I will be celebrating with her and my brothers and sisters on Sunday afternoon. It will be good to be together with my whole family. Every so often, I get asked by some parishioners as to how my mom is doing. Please do keep her in your prayers as she has been dealing with some serious health issues. Both she and I will appreciate it greatly. So will all my brothers and sisters. My mom’s health began to decline about 3 years ago. It has been difficult for her because even in her 80’s, she was always active and “on the go.” She was very involved in her parish and in the lives of her children and grandchildren. Each Saturday, she would pick up a couple of elderly ladies and drive them to church. She would take my aunt, who could not drive, shopping during the week. She was very interested in what was going on in the world, in our country, and in her own city. And she kept up on all of that. She is one of the only people I know who would watch the City Council Meetings on TV every week. Now her interests are a lot different. She does enjoy seeing her family and she has a pretty good sense of humor. She is a real woman of faith – her faith has been her stronghold in difficult times throughout her life, and I know her faith continues to help her face and embrace each day. If you would like to send my mom a card, her address is as follows:
Mary Gretka, c/o Cindy Schanz
Riverview, MI 48193
Blessings on the most holy Lenten Season!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ