Archives: July 2017

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
 
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.  This Feast, which falls on August 6th, supplants the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.    Matthew, Mark and Luke all include the account of the Transfiguration in their Gospels.  The main outline of the story is the same in all three of these Gospels.  In each account, Jesus and three of his apostles, Peter, James and John, go to a mountain (the Mount of the Transfiguration.)   On the mountain, Jesus is transfigured before their eyes, his face changed and his clothes became dazzlingly white.  Then Moses and the prophet Elijah appeared next to him and he conversed with them.  Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as at the Baptism of Jesus.   In Matthew and Mark’s account, Jesus then told his disciples not to tell anyone about the experience “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  
 
For Peter, James and John, the Transfiguration was a glimpse of the glory that awaited them.   And while the experience of the Transfiguration was unique to them, I believe we all have had or will have “transfiguring moments” in our lives.   These are brief, fleeting moments of God’s grace where we get a glimpse of something “more” or something “beyond” ourselves.   These moments do not occur at our initiative, and are not under our control.   They are gifts from God, and like Peter, while we might want to prolong or stay in these moments, we cannot.  Rather, they are meant to give us hope for the journey and confidence that despite any pain and hardship we might experience in the present --- if we remain steadfast in our faith --- ultimately we will share in the glory of God.    
 
Our first reading for this Feast of the Transfiguration, is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.  We don’t often read from this book.   It is Apocalyptic literature which uses highly stylized and symbolic language to make the point that despite any troubles in the present moment, ultimately there will be a time of vindication.  
 
Our second reading for this Feast is taken from the second Letter of Saint Peter.  In the section we read today Peter reminds us:  “………. we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”    
 
Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion:
 
  1. When have you experienced a “transfiguring moment” in your life?
  2. What do you remember most from this experience?  
  3. Apocalyptic literature is not meant to be taken literally. It is special type of literature that uses exaggerated, symbolic language to make a particular point. Have you ever read this kind of literature other than in the Bible?   

500 years later: Luther in our times  

The Martin Luther exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) was the first of many lectures, concerts, exhibits, and prayer services that will mark the year leading up to October 31, 2017. This day is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s famous nailing of his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. These events offer opportunities to study Luther and Lutheranism against the backdrop of our 21st century and increasingly dynamic political, social and religious realities.

Occasioned by this anniversary of the Reformation, Mia organized an impressive exhibit dedicated to Martin Luther, the de facto father of the Protestant Reformation. Art and artifacts from around Germany were gathered to shed light on the life of Luther against the background of the very complex political and religious realities of his time. It was a wildly popular exhibit, especially for the many Lutherans who inhabit our state.

Very prominent in the exhibit was the pulpit used by Martin Luther. I spent quite a bit of time looking at it and listening to onlookers’ comments. Some thought it looked very Catholic, which indeed it was at one point. Others wondered if anyone else but Luther had ever preached from that pulpit, which of course they did. Someone mused if a Rabbi had ever spoken from that pulpit. Someone chimed in, “what about an Imam?” “Probably not,” I thought. “But maybe one day.”

Pulpits are very important in our houses of worship. Rabbis, priests, imams, pastors, and other faith leaders address their congregations from their pulpits. And when they speak from the pulpit they speak with great authority. It is from the pulpit that all sorts of hatred and divisions have been preached throughout the ages, a practice which even continues today. By contrast, the pulpit is best used to build bridges, to invite people in to a culture of encounter, to preach love and compassion.  Pulpits should be used to unite, not to divide.

I was happy to be a member of the group responsible for the interfaith interpretation of the Luther exhibit. Our group included representatives from Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We had candid and enlightening conversations which enriched our understanding of Luther and one another. We were able to connect with each other on a very profound level without denouncing our own faiths. We built bridges and broke down walls.

Maybe this anniversary can be an occasion to take the next step in the ongoing reform of our faith communities, a step that we can all take together.

Pope Francis has called on Catholics to preach A Revolution of Love and Tenderness and to live it out in our communities. There is nothing exclusively Catholic about this.

On the contrary, all of us- Jews, Christians, Muslims and all people of faith- can and ought to respond to the challenges posed by our divided and broken world with love and tenderness. Just imagine if all of us preached a shared Revolution of Love and Tenderness from the pulpits in our synagogues, churches, mosques, and temples all around the world.

Now that would be a radical reformation. It is time. Humanity has waited long enough.

 

By Johan M. J. van Parys, Ph.D.

Published BASILICA Magazine Spring 2017, A Revolution of Love and Tenderness

 

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/073017.cfm    

Many years ago, after my mother died, we met as a family to share some of her personal items.  There were no disagreements until we came to the crockery bowl in which my mother used to make bread.   We all wanted it.   Now certainly it wasn’t because the bowl had any monetary value.  Rather, we all wanted it, because of its sentimental value.  It reminded us not just of my mother’s bread baking skills, but also of her love for us.  After discussing it, we decided that my sister --- the only one who lived in our home town of Anoka --- would get the bowl.   To this day, though, I still cast a jealous eye on it whenever I visit my sister.  

I would guess there are things in each of our lives that are very important to us.  These things could have great monetary value, or they could be important simply because of what they represent.   In either case, they are valuable to us and it is important that we have them.   Our Gospel for this weekend contains two parables that both speak about things that have value --- a treasure buried in a field and a pearl of great price.   In both cases the individuals who discovered them sold all they had to possess them. Now, as with all parables, this one is not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, it reminds us that some things are worth possessing regardless of the cost.    This is particularly true with regard to the Kingdom of God.   The parable invites us to do all that we can to take hold of that kingdom when it is offered to us.     

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the first Book of Kings.  In it God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said:  “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”   Solomon did not ask for a long life or riches, or the life of his enemies.  Instead he asked for an “understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”    In asking for wisdom Solomon clearly knew what was important and necessary.   

Our second reading this weekend is again taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   In it Paul reminds us that “all things work for good for those who love God.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. In your life, is there a “pearl of great price”
  2. Have you ever pursued something and then were disappointed when you got it?   
  3. If God appeared to you and said “ask something of me and I will give it to you,” what would you ask for? 

For 22 years, the Basilica has worked on Habitat for Humanity houses throughout our community, helping to make the joy and stability of home ownership a reality for local families. The Basilica has partnered with Habitat by sponsoring a week-long annual “work camp.” Every summer, the Basilica provides a sponsorship fee and volunteers each day for five days to work on a home. Throughout the past two decades, the Basilica team has taken part in building a variety of home types including townhomes, duplexes, and single-family dwellings. 

Volunteers who participate in the “work camp” are treated to complimentary breakfast and lunch each day, provided by generous donors, and many volunteers return year after year. Basilica teams have been instrumental helping local families achieve their dream of affordable home ownership. And, Basilica groups have also played a significant role in assisting to re-build areas of north Minneapolis that were damaged by the devastating tornado which hit the region several years ago. 

Within the Habitat “work camp” there are volunteer activities for everyone of all ages—those 16 and up are welcomed to build. No experience with construction is required—we’ll train you and you may work at your own comfort level. Anyone of any age can help to greet the builders and/or make/serve snacks or breakfast/lunch. 

Dates for the 2017 “work camp” are Monday, August 7- Friday, August 11 in North Minneapolis. Contact Julia to register. Don’t miss this fun, faith-filled, and rewarding opportunity!

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072317.cfm  

Beginning last week and for the next two weeks our Gospels will consist of parables.   Parables were simply stories that Jesus used to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God.  We use stories all the time to help us understand each other.   We say that “someone has a heart of gold” or “they would give you the shirt of their back.”   We don’t mean these things literally.  Instead they give us a picture of the individual.  In a similar way, parables were not meant to be taken literally, nor were they meant to be deconstructed, and the individual parts analyzed.   Rather they were to be taken as a whole.  The challenge for listeners/readers was to discern what the story said about God or about our relationship with God.    

Our parable this weekend is the story of a man who sowed good seed in his field and while he was asleep an enemy came and “sowed weeds all through the wheat.”   “When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.”  The man’s servants asked: “Do you want us to go and pull them up.”   The man knew, though, that if they pulled up the weeds they might uproot the wheat along with them.   So he wisely told his servants: “Let them grow together until harvest.”    The point of the parable is clear.   God is in charge.  Good and evil will co-exist until the time of judgment at the end of the world,   and judgment belongs to God alone.        

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Wisdom.    It shares the theme of the Gospel, reminding us that God, though the “master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.”

In our second reading this weekend we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   In the section we read today we are reminded that “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 

  1. If judgment belongs to God alone, why do so many of us feel the need to judge others?
  2. Why do you think Jesus used parables to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God?   
  3. Have you ever felt the Spirit coming to the aid of your weakness?   

This summer marks the 10th anniversary of my appointment as pastor and rector of The Basilica of Saint Mary. And while I know I will never surpass Msgr. Reardon’s record of 42 years as pastor/rector of The Basilica, from my perspective 10 years is still a significant amount of time. 

Much has happened these past 10 years. On the Archdiocesan level we have had three Archbishops. The sexually inappropriate behavior of many priests has been embarrassingly public, and our Church has had to candidly acknowledge our failings and errors of judgement. On the positive side, however, we have put in place safeguards to ensure that the mistakes of the past won’t be repeated. And while the Archdiocesan bankruptcy continues to be an issue, our hope and our prayer is that it will be resolved in the near future. Additionally, Archbishop Hebda is providing leadership that is practical, consultative, and pastoral. 

In regard to our parish, during the past 10 years our parish has grown and remains stable at almost 6,500 households. Our membership reflects the diversity of both our city and our state. And although we no longer have an associate pastor, we are blessed by the services of Fr. Joe Gillespie as well as several retired priests who help us on weekends and during the week. Further, we have experienced remarkably little turnover in our senior staff these past 10 years. In fact, the majority of our senior staff have been at The Basilica longer than I have. Additionally, our parish has been blessed by the many, many people who have occupied leadership positions these past 10 years. They represent the best of The Basilica. These past 10 years, we have also continued to maintain, repair, and renovate the various buildings on our parish campus. We have also worked to build our savings, in case a financial emergency occurs. Additionally, with the help of a set percentage of the rental income from our school building, we continue to balance our budget every year.

During these past 10 years, the ministries, services, and programs at The Basilica have continued to grow, evolve, and develop. In a few instances, though, we have had to terminate some things that weren’t prospering, or were not doing what they had been designed to do. Additionally, we are always looking to improve what we do, as well as try to discern what new programs, ministries, and services are needed in our community. Perhaps most importantly, we continue to see the number of people volunteering to share their talents and abilities with our parish grow. 

On a personal level, as I look back on these past 10 years, I must admit that being pastor of The Basilica is very different from being pastor of my two previous parishes. And in all honesty, these past 10 years have not been without their challenges, pain, and disappointments. Yet, more often by far, have been the times when I have been impressed by people’s generosity of spirit and humbled by their faith. More often by far have been the times when I’ve been witness to great hope in the face of a difficult situation, and great love in the face of indifference and even hate. And more often by far I have seen people live out their spirituality and faith in ways I can only hope to one day emulate. At these times, and many others, I have to admit that being pastor at The Basilica was not always what I had anticipated, but it has been more rewarding than I could have possibility imagined. 

So, for weal or woe, whether it was by God’s design or the oversight of the Holy Spirit, I have been pastor of The Basilica these past 10 years. It was with great self-confidence and a sense of brash fearlessness that I undertook this responsibility 10 years ago. Now with the hindsight of 10 years, I realize that a little less self-confidence and a little more reliance on God might have been in order. 

I am not sure what the future will hold for me or The Basilica, but I do believe in and have come to rely on God’s providence and grace. And I hold close and take great comfort in the words our God spoke centuries ago through the prophet Jeremiah: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord.” (Jer. 29:11-14) Holding firm to this promise, I believe our future is bright.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071617.cfm 

I have never been much of a gardener.   I am lucky if I can remember to water the few plants I have.   Our Gospel parable today, though, seems to suggest that there really isn’t much of an art to being a gardener/farmer.  In fact, in this Gospel, the process of sowing seeds seems almost haphazard.   We are told that when the sower went out to sow “some seed fell on the path and birds came and ate it up.”  Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep and when the sun rose it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.”   Given this random and seemingly chaotic sowing process, you wouldn’t expect much of a harvest.  We are told, though, that the seed which fell on rich soil “produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”   This is an extraordinary harvest.   What are we to make of this?

First it is important to remember that parables were simple stories that Jesus used to teach his disciples something about God.   They were not meant to be taken literally.   Given this, we need to ask what was Jesus trying to tell us in the parable of the sower and the seeds?    Well, we know from the interpretation of this parable that the seed represents the message of the Kingdom of God.   The message of the Kingdom goes out to all people, but is received in a variety of ways.   Ultimately, though, the Kingdom of God will flourish, despite any obstacles to its growth. 

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It shares the theme of the Gospel and reminds us that the word of the Lord “shall not return to me void, but shall do my will achieving the end for which I sent it.”   

In the second reading this weekend Paul reminds us that “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”  

Questions for reflection/discussion:

  1. In our Gospel parable I was impressed with the size of the harvest for such a haphazard sowing process.  Usually sowing in the manner indicated in the parable would only produce a harvest of about 7%, but in this case Jesus talked of a harvest a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.   What does this suggest to you?   
  2. Have you ever experienced the message of the Kingdom taking root in your life?
  3. A friend of mine is fond of saying:  “No crown without a cross.”   Certainly we all experience some measure of pain and suffering in our lives.   Does believing in the “glory to be revealed for us,” help you when you experience suffering?      

Changing Hearts,  Changing Minds,  Recognizing Christ  

The Basilica of Saint Mary announces the commissioning of Homeless Jesus sculpture

The Basilica of Saint Mary has recently commissioned a Timothy P. Schmalz Homeless Jesus bronze sculpture. The sculpture of a life-size Christ figure shrouded in a blanket on a park bench will take several months to create. Schmalz’s Homeless Jesus is an internationally recognized symbol of compassion and awareness for the homeless with sculptures located in major cities throughout the world. 

The meaning of the Homeless Jesus sculpture is to truly change hearts and minds towards people in need. The sculpture is designed to challenge and inspire each of us to be more compassionate and charitable and to see Jesus in each person we meet, and to take action to help end homelessness locally and around the world. The sculpture will be a vibrant piece in The Basilica’s sacred art collection.

We are currently working with our landscape architects to prepare the installation space on The Basilica campus. This sculpture has been funded by a select group of anonymous donors who are passionate about art and The Basilica community.

Leading up to the arrival of the sculpture The Basilica will engage the community with educational presentations addressing the issues of homelessness. We look forward to sharing with our community the installation and dedication of the sculpture on November 19, the World Day of the Poor, designated by Pope Francis. 

 

You should defend those who cannot help themselves. Yes, speak up for the poor and needy and see that they get justice. Proverbs 31:8 

 

More information about the sculpture-Q&A

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070917.cfm   

When I was growing up in Anoka, above the sanctuary in old St. Stephen’s Church were the words:  “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”   As a small child I remember reading those words week after week and thinking “What a wonderful God we must have who will give us rest when we are weary.”   As an adult I have come to know the truth of those words on occasions too numerous to mention.  When we are weary or feeling burdened, God gives us the grace we need to carry on and not to give up or give in.  

In our Gospel this weekend, though, not only does Jesus offer us rest in our weariness, he also invites us to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me ……………….. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”   According to Miriam Webster’s Dictionary, a yoke is a wooden bar or frame by which two animals are joined at the heads or necks for working together.  What this suggests to me that when Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon us it means that he will work with us to help us carry what ever burden we are called to carry.   I find this thought very comforting.  

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah.   In it Zechariah prophesized that the King will return to Jerusalem and that the “warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.”   We believe this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus who is meek and humble of heart.   

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   In it we are reminded that “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:  

  1. Have you ever felt Christ giving you rest?   How would you describe the experience?
  2. Can you recall a time when you have taken on Christ’s yoke?  Did you feel Christ’s grace helping you to carry a burden? 
  3. When have you felt the Spirit dwelling in you?