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- Our readings today are clear that judgment is God’s business, not ours. Yet we all continue to make judgments about others. Now I rationalize this by telling myself that when I make judgments about individuals I am doing so for entirely altruistic reasons. I want to save time at the end of the world by doing a little pre-judging in the present. What rationale do you use for judging others?
- Fairly frequently we hear of people who, by their reading of certain scripture texts, have determined that the end of the world is near. So far they have all been wrong. Why are so many people so obsessed with the trying to determine when the end of the world will occur?
- Notice that in our Gospel today, both the righteous and the accursed are surprised that they either helped --- or failed to help --- the Lord in what they did --- or failed to do --- for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger the naked, the ill and they imprisoned. When have you seen or failed to see the face of Christ in others?
Several years ago I had a meeting with my spiritual director and in our conversation I mentioned an issue that seemed to crop up periodically in my life. He listened carefully and than suggested that it might be helpful if I asked myself a couple of questions on a regular basis—sort of a mini examination of conscience. The questions he suggested were simple. “Where have I been the bad guy in someone’s life the past few (or several) weeks?” “Where have I been a hero in someone’s life the past few (or several) weeks?”
These questions were and continue to be helpful to me as I look at where sin has found a foothold—or worse—safe haven in my life. They challenge me to look beyond my intentions, to the impact and effects of my words and actions on others. In this regard, it is easy for me to tell myself that since I didn’t deliberately intend to hurt someone, what I did or said couldn’t have been sinful. The reality is, though, that both intentionally and unintentionally we can be the bad guy in someone’s life.
On the other hand, it is also good to ask ourselves on a regular basis, where I might be the hero in someone’s life. Now we don’t do this to inflate our ego, or to give us something to feel good about. Rather, we do it to discover where we are doing something right or good and how we might do more of that.
Asking ourselves on a regular basis where we may have hurt someone or conversely where we may have helped someone is a good spiritual exercise. It can help us be more aware of where a pattern of sin may have entered our life, or where virtue is manifesting itself. Taking a look at the impact of our words and actions on a regular basis can spur our spiritual growth, and help us to be more attuned to God’s presence in our lives and more open to God’s grace.
Now while it is good to identify where we have perhaps grown lax in our spiritual life, or where we are manifesting virtue, it is important not to stop at that point. The next step is to ask ourselves what we need to do to root out sin, and/or where we can give better witness to our faith. In this regard, I have discovered that in my own life prayer and reception of the Eucharist are the things that help me to grow spiritually and to recognize where God is offering me God’s grace.
Now while the Eucharist and prayer have helped me to be a better person, they have clearly not eliminated sin from my life, or put me on the path to sainthood. They do help me, though, to be a better person than I otherwise might be. As importantly, they help me to remember that God is still at work in my life, calling me to do good, avoid sin, and to believe that God’s grace is always being offered to me to live as Jesus has called me to live.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111917.cfm
Our Gospel this weekend --- the parable of the talents --- is a well known story. A man decided to go on a journey and so he called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. “To one he gave five talents, to another two; to a third one --- each according to his ability.” The first two servants traded with the talents they had been given and doubled them. The third “buried his master’s money.” After being gone a long time the master returned and called in his servants to settle accounts with them. The first two were congratulated for being “good and faithful” servants, and were promised greater responsibilities. They also were invited to “share in their master’s joy.” The third was berated as a “wicked and lazy servant,” and thrown “into the darkness outside.”
What are we to make of this parable? It seems as if the master’s treatment of the third servant is unduly harsh. I think the key is to be found in the fact that he entrusted his possessions to his servants “each according to his ability.” The third servant was lazy and indifferent. He didn’t even put his master’s money in the bank where it could earn interest. As with every parable, this one also tells us something about God or about our relationship with God. Specifically this parable reminds us very clearly that God has given us the gift of faith, and we put off living out our faith at our own risk.
Our first reading this weekend from the book of Proverbs speaks of the qualities of a worthy wife. It shares the theme of the Gospel in that a worthy wife uses well the talents and abilities she has been given. In this she is like the first two servants in the Gospel.
Once again this weekend our second reading is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. In the selection we read this weekend Paul reminds the Thessalonians that because of Jesus Christ they “are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light, and children of the day.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What are you doing to develop the gift of faith you have been given?
- What inhibits you from developing the gift of faith?
- What does it mean to live as children of the light?
On November 19, this year’s class of Inquirers will go through the Rite of Welcome, also known as the Rite of Acceptance. These Inquirers have already been attending RCIA sessions since September. During that time, some of them have experienced a conversion; others have deepened and strengthened their relationships with God in Christ, and still others have come to know and understand the Catholic faith a bit better. In either case, some of these Inquirers are now ready to publicly declare their desire to continue their journey towards full initiation into the Catholic Church.
During the Rite of Welcome, Inquirers enter at the back of The Basilica, standing between the doors and the baptismal font, symbolizing their initial steps into the community. They are introduced to our community for the first time and are asked to declare their intention and desire from the Church. They are then guided forward into the church where they will be marked with the sign of the Christian to remind them we are followers of Jesus Christ.
Although the Rite of Welcome is only one of the steps Inquirers take during their process of conversion, for many of them it is still a very emotional and spiritually rich step. Some Inquirers may face a lack of understanding or even rejection by friends and family for taking this step and being formally welcomed by its members brings a surge of love and relief. As one author has written, “…the church embraces the catechumens as its own with a mother’s love and concern. Joined to the church, the catechumens are now part of the household of Christ, since the church nourishes them with the word of God and sustains them by means of liturgical celebrations.”
But as meaningful as the Rite of Welcome is for the Inquirers, it also holds rich meaning for us who are life-long members of the church, giving us a chance to reflect on our own journey of conversion and ponder the rich gift of faith. It reminds us of where our love story began with Christ and where it has taken us in our own faith lived out.
The Basilica is an especially warm community, and past Inquirers always comment on the love and support they see in the faces of the congregation as they go through the Rite of Welcome, love and support that continues as many of them receive cards and letters from members of The Basilica as they move through their RCIA journey. And even though some Basilica members may never interact with an Inquirer on a personal level, their prayers nevertheless strengthen Inquirers along their journey of faith.
The Rite of Welcome ends and begins another stage in the process and is a powerful experience for Inquirers that clearly symbolizes that they have, at long last, been welcomed into a loving and spiritually nourishing home. Please be sure to be there November 19 at the 9:30am Mass to welcome this year’s group of Inquirers to The Basilica, and to offer your support through your smile and your prayers and your welcome as they continue their journeys toward Easter. This year’s class is a wonderful group of people, and your presence would be most meaningful to them.
The Basilica of Saint Mary received a 2017 Building Energy Performance Award for outstanding energy reduction from the City of Minneapolis. Dave Laurent, Director of Buildings and Grounds accepted the award along with Peter Crain from the Basilica Landmark Board and Facilities Assessment committee, and Dennis Dillon from the Ecological Stewardship committee.
The Basilica Landmark has made significant renovations and capital investments possible for our historic building and campus to meet our ecological goals. The Landmark works with The Basilica’s Facilities Assessment and Ecological Stewardship volunteer committees to identify energy savings solutions.
The Basilica’s energy saving improvements for over the past three years include replacing the three original 1913 boilers with new more efficient equipment and renovating the Rectory and School buildings with central air conditioning to replace 35 window units. LED lighting updates have made throughout the campus inside and out including the bell towers, Church sanctuary, and lower level. These improvements have resulted in a 21% energy use reduction that has lowered our energy costs and improved our energy efficiency.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111217.cfm
“Its mine and you can’t have it.” How often did we say those words as children, or worse, how often as adults do we still say them? They express control and selfishness. At first blush, it appears that this is the message being conveyed by the wise virgins in our Gospel today. In that Gospel we are told that there were five wise virgins and five foolish virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. “The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.” When the bridegroom arrived, “all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No for there may not be enough for us and you.’”
Were the wise virgins being selfish in not sharing some of their oil? In order to answer this question, we need to remember that parables were simple stories that Jesus used to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God. They were not meant to be taken literally. From this perspective the question, then, is what was Jesus trying to tell us in this parable. Well, I would suggest that Jesus was telling us that some things can not be acquired at the last minute, and one very specific thing that cannot be obtained at the last minute is a relationship with God. At the end of our lives we can’t turn to the person next to us and ask them for some of their relationship with God. We need to plan ahead and work throughout our lives to develop our relationship with God.
Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom is an exhortation to seek wisdom. “For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care;” And the wisest thing we can do is seek God, and to build a relationship with God.
In our second reading this weekend Paul reminds the Thessalonians of Christ’s resurrection and the promise of eternal life that has been given to all of us. He closes with the clear command: “Therefore, console one another with these words.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- The Gospel parable reminds us that we need to work now to develop our relationship with God. How does one do this?
- How does one seek wisdom?
- Belief in eternal life is one of the pillars of our faith. How would you explain this belief to someone who came from a non-Christian background?
The Catholic Spirit Feature:
For years, icons created by local iconographer Nicholas Markell have been included in the Basilica of St. Mary’s icon procession, held annually at the Minneapolis parish to coincide with All Saints Day.
It coincides, however, with the opening of “Windows to Heaven: A Visual Hymn of Praise,” a retrospective of Markell’s work and life. On display in the Basilica’s John XXIII Gallery, the exhibition will focus on Markell as an artist and theologian.
Join us November 5 for the icon processions during the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses.
My brother Hans proudly sent me a photo of the grave marker he and his children created for the tomb of one of our beloved aunts. I did not know he was doing this. In the past, we have always bought tomb stones or markers at specialty shops. This time he decided to do it himself. When I asked him why he did this, he mentioned that he wanted to create something special for my aunt and he wanted to do it himself. They had a special bond.
The marker is really striking and it is unique. It is large and covers the entire tomb. Made out of metal it frames a central cross. Carefully selected succulents were planted inside the frame around the cross. Seasonal flowers will be added throughout the year. The marker thus testifies eloquently to our belief in the resurrection.
There is something really beautiful about this marker and the fact that my brother made it. It is the perfect final gift my brother gave to our beloved aunt. And, he thoughtfully readied it in time for the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, the time when Belgians—like many others throughout the world—visit the tombs of deceased loved ones and decorate them with flowers.
Our care and continued love for our deceased relatives and friends is rooted in our belief in the Resurrection and the Communion of Saints. As to the latter, the oldest known reference to the Communion of Saints can be found in the writings by Saint Nicetas who was bishop of Remesiana, Serbia, at the end of the fourth century. He described the Communion of the Saints as the spiritual union which exists between all the members of the Church, both the living and the dead. This union is made possible through our shared membership in the Mystical Body of Christ. Saint Paul wrote in several of his letters that through baptism we become part of the Body of Christ with Christ as its head.
The fruit of this union are the blessings in which all members share. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the good of each [member] is communicated to all the others.” (CCC,947) Therefore, even sinners share in the Communion of Saints and benefit from it.
At The Basilica, we celebrate our belief in the Communion of Saints every time we gather for worship, for we believe that not only those present but all Christians, living and deceased, gather spiritually whenever we gather for worship. During the month of November, we visualize this reality by placing Icons of the Saints in the sanctuary and photos of our beloved dead on the side altars.
The very presence of these Icons and photos both expresses and refreshes our belief in the Communion of Saints, the Mystical Body of Christ with Christ himself as the head. For an Icon is not only an image of the Saint it depicts, the saint in turn is an image of Christ himself. Similarly, we believe that the photos are not only an image of our deceased loved ones but also of Christ in whose mystical body they participate through baptism.
One of the first things I do whenever I travel to Belgium is to visit the tombs of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in our town’s cemetery. I look forward to seeing the marker on the tomb of my aunt, so lovingly made by my brother and such a testimony to our faith. May my auntie and all our beloved dead whom we remember especially during this month of November rest in peace.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110517.cfm
Our Gospel this weekend comes in two parts. In the fist section, Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees because “They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen.” The scribes and Pharisees were not deliberately hypocritical. From their perspective, following the law exactly and slavishly was critically important. In doing so they believed they were being true to God. Unfortunately, they had allowed the precise and detailed following of the law to take the place of their relationship with God. While their actions were correct, they did not flow from heart set on God. Like the scribes and Pharisees, sometimes we too can “do” the right thing, and think that is enough. Our actions, though, need to flow from a heart set on God. It is only in this way that we can truly grow in our relationship with God.
In the second half of our Gospel this weekend, Jesus reminds us his disciples that: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Our first reading this weekend from the Book of the Prophet Malachi, shares the theme of the Gospel. In it God, through the prophet, is critical of the priests because they “have turned aside from the way and have caused many to falter by your instruction, you have made void the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts.”
Our second reading this weekend is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. In it Paul gives thanks to God because the Thessalonians: “in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees for a lack of consistency between their words and their actions. When have your actions not been consistent with your words?
- Jesus invited his disciples to humble themselves. What does that mean to you?
- Have you ever felt the word of God at work in you?
Recently I attended a lecture by author Kathleen Norris. During the course of her talk she shared a quote attributed to Philo of Alexandria, a first century Jewish philosopher: “BE KIND for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” I loved the simplicity of the words, but also the profound meaning behind them. I suspect all of us have “battles” we are fighting in our lives. They could be bad memories, addictive behaviors, physical or mental health issues, difficulties in relationships, financial problems, job concerns, etc. etc. The list could go on endlessly. Whatever battle an individual is fighting, though, it is very often unseen and in many cases known only to a few.
So, recognizing that everyone has their own personal battle they are fighting, the real question is how do we “be kind” to everyone? Well, I think this is easier than some might think. In fact, I think it can be boiled down to four simple things.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. It is easy for all of us to observe what we “perceive” to be someone’s bad mood or poor behavior, and then respond in kind. More often than I care to admit, when I think someone is being indifferent, unfriendly, or mean, I mirror that behavior in my response to them. We need to remember, though, that we are dealing with our perception, and perception doesn’t necessarily translate into reality. Perhaps the individual is just preoccupied with a difficulty or a problem they are dealing with. Or perhaps, they are feeling a bit overwhelmed and aren’t ready to deal with the world outside themselves. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is a very simple way to be kind.
- Don’t take out your bad mood on someone else. Too often when I am having a bad day, or when I’m overly tired, or when I am worried about something, I can easily share that bad mood with almost everyone I encounter. The challenge for all of us is to recognize when we are “out of sorts,” for whatever reason, and then make a conscious choice to keep our bad mood to ourselves. I have a friend who regularly gives themselves a “time out” when they recognize that they are in a bad mood. It gives them time to think about what issue/concern is the source of their bad mood, and then find a constructive way to deal with that. Not taking out our bad mood on someone else is an easy way to be kind.
- Don’t talk about people behind their backs. When we criticize or denigrate others, particularly when there is no way for them to explain or defend themselves, this demonstrates a serious lack of charity on our part. In effect, we are passing judgement on them “in absentia.” Failing to honor the name and character of someone in their absence is always inappropriate. Not talking about someone behind their back is another easy way to be kind.
- Say a quick prayer. I suggest this because it never ceases to amaze me what a difference it can make to pause for a moment to pray for someone or to pray for myself. Prayer helps to take the focus off of me and my feelings, and reminds me that God is always offering us God’s grace to help us deal with, work through, overcome or forgive whatever is causing us not to be charitable. Saying a quick prayer for someone or for ourselves is an easy way to be kind.
Being kind is not always easy, especially when we don’t know what battle someone is fighting. Perhaps, though if we are kind to others, they in turn will be kind to us. And who knows, that kind of mutual kindness could even start a trend.