Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052216.cfm 

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.   This Feast celebrates our belief that God has revealed God’s Self as loving Father, redeeming Son and sanctifying Spirit.  In the preface for this Feast we read:  “For what you have revealed to us of your glory we believe equally of your Son and of the Holy Spirit.”   How this can be we do not know.  That it can be we do believe.   

While our belief in a Triune God has been at the core of our faith since the beginnings of our Church, the dogmatic statements that articulate this belief are the result of later generations of believers.   

Our Gospel reading for this weekend is from the Gospel of John.   In it Jesus promised to send the Spirit to his disciples.   In making this promise, Jesus is clear that even though he will no longer physically be with them, the Spirit will empower and guide them.  “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Proverbs.  We don’t read from this book very often.  At least part of the reason for this is that it is poetic literature, and thus not always easily accessible.  In today’s reading “Wisdom” is personified as being with God from the very beginning.  As Christians, we would see “Wisdom” as a prefiguring of both Christ and the Holy Spirit. 

Our second reading for this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.   While it was probably chosen because it speaks of each member of the Trinity, I found the last few lines to be most poetic and compelling:   “………but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. We believe in one God, who has revealed God’s self as Father, Son and Spirit.  What explanation of the Trinity has been most helpful to you in understanding this belief?  
  2. How have you experienced the presence and/or action of the Father, Son and Spirit in your life?  
  3. What gives you hope in your life?   
Within the past few months I have hosted a couple of priests for dinner, and then they stayed overnight in my guest room. They were both very pleasant and gracious guests, and easy to have around. We had great conversations, and both evenings were very enjoyable. The only complaint I have is that they didn’t do things the way I thought they should be done. One of them only filled up the ice trays half full, and when he put new linens on his bed in the morning, he didn’t make hospital corners. The other loaded the dishwasher all wrong and put the butter dish in the refrigerator instead of leaving it out on the counter. Now I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I didn’t tell them about their errors. And the only way they will find out about them is if someone reading this column snitches on me. 
 
Now I know what you’re probably thinking: That man has lived by himself way too long. And, of course, you’re right. I suspect if I were to live with a roommate or God forbid some kind of community, I would be given a severe talking to on a regular basis. No doubt I would also be given time outs on a fairly frequent basis. When we live by ourselves, it is easy to become rough around the edges and perhaps even a little brittle. There is something about being around other people, though, and having to rub shoulders with them on a regular basis that smooths away some of our rough edges and makes us easier to be with. Certainly this is true in the work environment, and while I can’t say for sure, I suspect it is true when you live with others.
 
I think the above is also true in regard to the Christian community. I have long maintained that among the many benefits of the Christian community there are two that are vitally important. Specifically, the Christian community supports us when we are struggling and feeling burdened, and it corrects us when we start to wander off and go our separate ways. Both of these functions are important and, I believe, both are essential in a Christian community.
 
The thing is, though, that in order to enjoy these benefits you have to be part of a community. You have to invest something of yourself in the community. You have to believe that you along with everyone else has a place in the community. For some people this comes naturally. Others seem to struggle with it, and some never seem to be able to make the connection. While I don’t know exactly why this is, I do know that a big part of helping people feel a part of a community is when those who are already established and at home in that community make the effort to invite and welcome new members. Another important piece is just accepting people as they are and where they are, and not expecting them to conform to our expectations.
 
Both of the above are important. Helping people feel a part of our community and knowing they have a home is an ongoing goal. The same is true of working harder at accepting people as they are and where they are. This is certainly true in our parish community. For me personally, though, I think it is also true for overnight guests. To this end, I have deleted the list of rules and regulations for guests I was composing for the back of my guest room door, and I will instead welcome any visitors I might have graciously and overlook their failings silently.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051516.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.   This Feast celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.   Along with Christmas and Easter this is the third great Feast of our Church year.  Unfortunately, coming at the beginning of summer, Pentecost doesn’t get nearly as much attention as Christmas and Easter.   

The readings for Mass on the Saturday evening Vigil of Pentecost are different from the Readings for Mass on Pentecost Sunday.   The link above is to the readings of the day, not the readings for the Vigil.   Our Gospel reading tells us that “On the evening of that first day of the week ……….Jesus cam and stood in their midst.”  After twice telling them:  “Peace be with you.”  Jesus then “breathed on them” and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”    

The above scene from the Gospel stands in contrast to our First Reading this Sunday from the Acts of the Apostles.   In that reading we are told that “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.   Then  there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues…….”  

Taken together these readings remind us that sometimes the Holy Spirit comes in subtle and quiet ways.  At other times, though, the Spirit comes in a dramatic and intense manner.  It is the same Spirit, though, that is given to all of us and that continues to guide our Church.  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In it we are reminded that: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit ………… To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”    

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When and/or how have you felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? 
  2. What gift(s) of the Holy Spirit have you been given? 
  3. In what ways have you seen the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifested in the lives of others?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050816-ascension.cfm 

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord.   This Feast used to be celebrated on the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  Several years ago, though, the Bishops of the United States moved the celebration of the Ascension to what had been the Seventh Sunday of Easter. 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the last few verses of the Gospel of Luke.   In it we are told that Jesus led his disciples as far as Bethany and then told them he was “sending the promise of my Father upon you” Then,…………he raised his hands and blessed them.  As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.”    

The above scene is also recorded in our first reading this Sunday from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.  In this account Jesus promised his disciples “………. you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you………… When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”   

As I reflected on these readings, I remembered a wonderful homily preached by another priest at his mother’s funeral.  In his homily he noted that while his mother had died, she would continue to live on.  He then went on to name various people and situations where his mother’s presence would be known and felt.   His message was clear, while physically gone, his mother’s presence would continue to be experienced.   This is the same message of our Gospel and first reading.   While Jesus would no longer be with his disciples physically, he would continue to be with them.   We experience this abiding presence of Christ in many ways, but most evidently in the Eucharist, in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the grace of God that is continually being offered to us.     

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.  In it Paul prays that the “eyes of your hearts be enlightened and that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call ………………..and what is the surpassing greatness of his power.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. When have you felt someone’s presence even though they were not physically with you?   
  2. When have you felt God’s presence in your life?
  3. I loved Paul’s use of the phrase “eyes of your heart.”  When have you seen some one/thing through the eyes of the heart?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050116.cfm

Today we celebrate the 6th Sunday of Easter.   Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension and then we close the Easter season with the celebration of Pentecost.   In our Gospel today we read from what is referred to as Jesus’ farewell discourse.  In movies the farewell scene is often the time when the hero or heroine says something especially important and moving.  I suspect they got this idea from Jesus’ farewell discourse.  

In this Gospel Jesus reminds us of four important things. 1. “Whoever loves me will keep my word.”  2. He will send “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit” to “teach you everything and to remind you of all that I told you.”  3. Peace is Jesus’ farewell gift to his disciples “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world give do I give it to you.”  4.  He has told us this “before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”   These words are important and they remind us that even though Jesus is not physically present with us, he is still with us nonetheless.   And because of the gift of the Holy Spirit we are enabled and empowered to live as his disciples.  

Once again this Sunday our first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It reminds us that differences and disagreements within our Church are not something new.   It tells of a division within the early Christian community as to whether new Christians had to be “circumcised according to the Mosaic practice.”  The matter was resolved when the apostles and elders sent Judas and Silas to tell the people:  “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place any burden beyond these necessities, namely to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.  If you keep free of these you will be doing what is right.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Book of Revelation.   It is a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, except there was no temple: “for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What would be important for you to tell people in your farewell discourse?
  2. What is unique about the peace Jesus offers us? 
  3. Why do you think some people have difficulty accepting differences and disagreements in our Church? 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042416.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the fifth Sunday of Easter.   At this point in the Easter season, we have read almost all of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and his appearances to his disciples.   So this Sunday we return to the setting of the Last Supper.   Jesus has just told his disciples that he would only be with them a little while longer.  Then he said:  “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   

Jesus’ “new” commandment reminds us that not only is love to be the defining characteristic of his disciples, but also their love is to modeled after his love for them.   If and when we exhibit this kind of love, then all will know that we are his disciples.   

Our first reading this Sunday is once again taken from the Acts of the Apostles.   We continue to read of the missionary activity of Paul and Barnabas.  One of their messages, while difficult to hear, is very important.   Specifically they told the new Christians that “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”   These words remind us that being a disciple of Jesus may not always be easy, but it is in following Christ --- regardless of the cost --- that will lead to our entry into the kingdom of God.   

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Book of Revelation.     Once again the author of this Book offers a vision of hope and ultimate victory for those who are experiencing hardship and adversity. “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.   He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away'.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. In college one of my floor mates had a poster on his door that read:  “If they were putting Christians on trial would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  While perhaps a bit over the top, it did raise a good question for all of us: if they were putting Christians on trial would there be enough evidence to convict you?  
  2. Why is it so difficult for us to love one another as Christ has loved us?  
  3. Have you ever had to undergo a hardship for the Kingdom of God?   

Watching the Clock

In the years since I have been ordained I’ve always made it a practice wherever I’ve lived to designate a special area for prayer. Usually this area is in a corner of my bedroom. I have my “prayer chair” there as well as a small table on which I keep my Breviary, various scripture commentaries, a candle, and sundry other items. One of the items that I added about ten years ago was a small digital clock someone had given me. I use this clock when I’m at prayer—especially in the morning—to make sure I don’t lose track of time. A few weeks ago I noticed that the display on the clock was getting dimmer and dimmer, so I knew it was time to replace the batteries. 

Now resetting this clock has become increasingly problematic the past few years. When I first got it, I was able to reset the time by pressing my finger on the display. Unfortunately over the years, the screen has become less and less responsive to my touch. And after replacing the batteries, I couldn’t reset the time no matter how many times I touched, pressed, pushed, or manipulated my finger on the screen. It occurred to me that it might be time to replace the clock, but since it had served me well for ten years, I just let it sit for a few days to see if it would eventually respond to my touch.  


Now I have to say that while initially it wasn’t a problem that I couldn’t reset the clock, after a few days it did begin to bother me. I liked being able to glance up when I was reflecting on the scriptures and know how long I had been at it. I took a certain pride in the fact that at times I thought I had been praying for 15 minutes only to glance at the clock and realize it had actually been 25 minutes. At other times, of course, I would glance at the clock only to realize that what I thought had been 15 minutes was only 5 minutes.


After about a week of praying without knowing the “right” time, I had a sudden insight that perhaps I had turned what was initially a convenience, into a “measure.” Further, it occurred to me that God might be trying to tell me that the time I gave to God in prayer shouldn’t be measured or timed. It should be God’s time. And it should take as long as it takes. Timing my prayer not only wasn’t being very respectful of God, but more importantly it was turning what should have been a relationship into a duty. 


A few days after the above revelation, I was telling another priest about it. He suggested that perhaps I needed to re-think how I approached my prayer time. Then in passing he said: “And you know you might want to try using a stylus to reset your clock.” He then gave me an extra stylus that he had. And when I got home, voilà—problem solved. I was able to reset the clock. The other problem remained, though, of checking the time during my prayer. I ultimately decided that the clock could stay, but that I would only check it once during my prayer time. So far this seems to be working, and it has made me more conscious of the fact that prayer is time with God, and that since God is more concerned that I pray, than with how much time I spend in prayer, perhaps this should be my goal too.

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041716.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Easter.  This Sunday is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday since we always read from chapter 10 of John’s Gospel which contains Jesus’ Good Shepherd discourse.   The section we read this Sunday, Jn. 10:27-30, is just three verses long, but they tell us four very important things.   1.  First, the sheep know the Good Shepherd and hear his voice.   2.  The Good Shepherd offers the sheep eternal life.   3. No one can snatch the sheep out of the Shepherd’s hand.   4.  The Shepherd and the Father are one.   

This Gospel reminds us how important we are to the Good Shepherd, and how protective the Good Shepherd is of his sheep.  Given this, the challenge for us, as sheep, is to listen to the voice of the Shepherd and follow where he leads.   

We continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles for our first reading this Sunday.   In the section we read this Sunday Paul and Barnabas continue to preach about Jesus Christ.  They preached originally to a Jewish audience, but soon their focus shifted to the Gentiles.   We are told that when the Gentiles heard Paul and Barnabas, they were delighted and “glorified the word of the Lord.” 

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Book of Revelation.  The Book of Revelation was written to Christians who were enduring hardship and persecution.   In colorful and vivid apocalyptic language it reminds them that ultimately “The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.  they will  not hunger or thirst anymore, ……………For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”   

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. When have you heard the voice of the Good Shepherd in your life?
  2. What has helped you to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd? 
  3. While apocalyptic literature is not meant to be taken literally, in times of stress/conflict there is comfort to be found in knowing that ultimately everything will be alright. Has there been a time when you have needed to hear this message?   

For this Sunday's Readings click on the link below or copy and paster it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041016.cfm 

This weekend we celebrate the Third Sunday of Easter.  This Sunday, and for the next three Sundays, our Gospel will be taken from the Gospel of John.   Today we read of another appearance by the resurrected Jesus.   This appearance takes place at the Sea of Tiberias (The Sea of Galilee).   The disciples were fishing when Jesus suddenly appeared to them, “but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.”     After being told by Jesus to cast their nets over the right side of the boat, they caught such a sizable number of fish that they were not able to pull their net in.   At that moment John recognized Jesus, and told Peter:  “It is the Lord.”   In response, Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore.  When the disciples arrived, Jesus gave them bread and fish to eat.  After they had eaten, Jesus asked Peter three times:  “Do you love me?”   Each time, Peter responded in the affirmative and Jesus told him to “Feed my Lambs/Sheep.”  

Some commentators suggest that Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him in response to Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus.  Others suggest that Jesus wanted Peter to understand not just the importance of the question, but the importance of his answer.   Whatever the reason, we know from that moment on Peter was fully committed to Jesus. 

Our first and second readings for this Sunday --- like last weekend and for the next few weekends --- will be taken from the Acts of the Apostles and the Book of Revelation respectively.    In our first reading the apostles are brought before the Sanhedrin.   They are ordered “to stop speaking in the name of Jesus.”  We are told that “that they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”   

In regard to our second reading, as I mentioned last week, it is important to remember that the Book of Revelation is “apocalyptic” literature.  It is not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, apocalyptic literature is filled with vivid imagery and symbolic language.   It was written during a time of trial or distress and it was meant to encourage and offer hope in the face of trials and suffering.   The section from Revelation that we read this weekend presents an end-time scene in which John heard “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and sea, everything in the universe cry out:  ‘To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory, and might, forever and ever.'”   

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:  

  1. I can easily identify with Peter in that, at times, and in my own ways I deny Jesus.   Is this also true for you? 
  2. Have you ever suffered “dishonor” for the sake of Jesus’ name? 
  3. Why is the book of Revelation so attractive to so many people? 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040316.cfm

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter, which is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  Although our first and second readings for this Sunday follow our three year cycle of readings, the Gospel is always Jn. 20: 19-31 --- the story of Thomas.  

I have always felt a great deal of sympathy for poor Thomas.   He didn’t believe the other disciples when they told him that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had appeared to them.  As a result, forever after he was known as “doubting” Thomas.   Now I don’t know that I can completely restore Thomas’ reputation, but I’d like to offer two thoughts in his defense.   First, it seems to me that the other disciples couldn’t have been very effective witnesses if they couldn’t convince Thomas that they had encountered the risen Lord.  Certainly the idea of someone rising from the dead was unprecedented, but the disciples couldn’t have been very persuasive if they couldn’t convince Thomas --- a man who had been in their company for three years --- that Jesus had been raised from the dead.   Second, I don’t know that doubt is such a bad thing.   In fact, I think doubt is an ingredient of faith.  I say this because you can’t have doubt if you don’t have (at least some) faith.   More importantly, though, out of Thomas’ doubt came the first statement of Easter faith:  “My Lord and my God.”  

Our first reading today is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It recounts the beginnings of the apostles’ ministry, which was a continuation of Jesus’ mission and ministry.  In this reading we are told “Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women were added to them.”  

Our second reading today is taken from the Book of Revelation.   We will be reading from this book for the next five weeks.  It is important to remember that the Book of Revelation is “apocalyptic” literature.  It is not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, apocalyptic literature is filled with vivid imagery and symbolic language.   It was written during a time of trial or distress and it was meant to encourage and offer hope in the face of trials and suffering.  It also reminded people to remain firm in their faith.   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Do you think doubt is a bad thing?
  2. Have you ever tried to convince someone of something only to have them doubt you?  Did they ever come to believe you?  
  3. If you encountered someone who read the Book of Revelation literally, what would you say to them?  

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