Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below, or copy and paste it into your browser. 

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091414.cfm 

 

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.    This Feast is always celebrated on September 14th, and when September 14th falls on a Sunday it supersedes the usual. celebration of that day --- in this case the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  

Our Gospel for this Feast is a section of Nicodemus’ visit to Jesus.  In the section we read today Jesus tells Nicodemus:  “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.”    These words remind us that for believers the cross is a sign of hope and life, not death.  It is a symbol of God’s love and the promise of eternal life. 

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Numbers.  It prefigures Jesus’ words in the Gospel.   We are told that as punishment for their grumbling and complaining, the Lord sent “saraph serpents which bit the people so that many of them died.”  When Moses prayed for the people, the Lord said to Moses: “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.”    

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.  It is a Christological hymn that reminds us that “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped ……………….. He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Do you think the cross has lost some of its meaning/impact because so many people wear a cross as a form of jewelry? 
2.  How would you explain the cross to a non-Christian? 
3. What does it mean to you that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and past it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090714.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday comes in two parts.   In the first part, Jesus gives some practical directives in regard to how to deal with disputes.   “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone ……….. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you ………. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.   If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or tax collector.”   Sadly, all too often we reverse this process, going first to others and only last to our brother or sister.   The really important thing to note, though, is Jesus’ last words in this Gospel: “If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or tax collector.”   And as we know from Jesus’ ministry, he welcomed Gentiles and tax collectors, and treated them with respect and love.   These are very challenging words. 

In the second half of this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus appears to make an impossible promise:  “if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.”   In this regard, it is important to note that if two people are really united in prayer, they will also be united in their desire to do God’s will ----- and will pray to do God’s will.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.  In it we are reminded that we have a responsibility to try to “warn the wicked” and turn them from their way.   It is not enough simply to be concerned about our own welfare.

Our second reading this Sunday is once again taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.  In it Paul reminds us that the commandments of the Old Testament are summed up by the new commandment of Christ:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus is clear that we are to go to our brother or sister to try to resolve issues before going to anyone else.  Why do so many of us do just the opposite?
2. How do you know when it is appropriate to challenge someone, and when it is better simply to accept their faults?   
3. What is a practical way to love someone as you love yourself? 

Blocking God's Grace

A few weeks ago I got a call from a priest in another diocese who asked if I had received an email he had sent a month earlier. I told him I hadn’t and asked what email address he had sent it to. He replied that he didn’t have my email address and had sent the email via our website. I checked through my various email folders and finally found his email in my junk email folder. Unfortunately, I also found about twenty other emails in that folder that needed a response. As a result, I spent an entire morning sending apology emails to those twenty emails that unbeknownst to me had been sent to my junk email folder.

When I checked with our IT person, we discovered that any and all emails that had been sent to me via our website were being blocked and unceremoniously consigned to my junk email folder. Since I don’t know how to block emails, I didn’t have any idea how this could have happened. At this point, the problem has been corrected and I am once again receiving emails that are sent to me via our website. And while I tried to be careful when I went through my junk email folder, I hope I didn't miss an email I should have responded to and ended up offending someone.

As I reflected on this situation, it occurred to me that at times we may be aware when something is blocking our communication efforts. On the other hand, there may be other times when we are completely unaware that something is blocking them. I think this is probably especially true in regard to God’s attempts to share God’s love with us. Our faith tells us that God is constantly revealing God’s love to us and offering us God’s grace. At times, though, because of our sins, we may not be open to God’s love and grace. In effect and in fact, our sins block us from being open to God.

The above is exacerbated by the fact that, while there are times when we are aware that we are estranged from or at a distance from God, there are times when our sins have put us at a distance from God, and as a result we are unaware that the grace and love our God wants to offer us is being blocked. This is the corrosive and numbing effect of sin. It can block God’s grace without our being aware that this is happening.

Fortunately, while Christians didn’t invent sin, we do believe that in Jesus Christ we have found the remedy for sin. In chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, we find the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. Both of these parables remind us that when we are lost—even and perhaps especially when we don’t know we are lost—Jesus seeks us out. And he is not satisfied and won’t stop looking until he finds us.

Sin can block the love and grace God wants to offer us. But in and through Jesus Christ we know and believe that this situation is usually temporary. Because of Jesus Christ, there is nothing—save the hardness of our own hearts—that can block God’s love. Of this we can be sure and because of this we will be saved.

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/083114.cfm

Our Gospel this Sunday follows immediately after last Sunday’s Gospel in which Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?”  Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.   In our Gospel this weekend, Jesus tells his disciples the “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”  When Peter objected to this Jesus told him:  “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”   Jesus then went on to tell his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. “  

In this Gospel Jesus is clear that his disciples should not expect a life free of difficulties or pain simply because they were his disciples.   Rather, we can expect our reward or punishment at the end of our lives. This is made clear in the last line of this Sunday’s Gospel.  “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”   

Our first reading this Sunday dovetails nicely with the Gospel.  The prophet Jeremiah is upset that his words of chastisement and rebuke have caused him to be beaten and put into stocks.  In a famous lament he says:  “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me and you triumphed.  All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.”   Given this, Jeremiah vows not to prophesy any longer.  “But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”    Clearly for Jeremiah, responding to God’s call was no picnic, yet he realized that ultimately in responding to that call he would find his salvation.

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  It shares the theme of the Gospel and the first reading.  Paul tells the Romans: “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. When have you had to take up your cross and follow Jesus?
2.  Have you ever felt like Jeremiah in our first reading?
3. What helps you discern the will of God in your life?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  


http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082414.cfm

What do you think I should do?  Is this a good color on me?  What did you mean by that?  We often ask questions of one another.  Most of the time these questions are relatively simple and benign.  At other times, though, our questions ask for more than a simple opinion.  I think this was the case in this Sunday’s Gospel.   Jesus was in the region of Caesarea Philippi when he asked his disciples:  “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  His disciples must have been pleased that they could fill him in on the local gossip.  “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”   Jesus, though, wasn’t interested in what others were saying, and so he asked his disciples:  “But who do you say that I am?”   Peter replied:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”    Jesus then told Peter that this had been revealed to him by “my heavenly Father”   Jesus then told Peter he was the “rock” up which he would build his church.  At the end of the Gospel, Jesus “ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.”  

I suspect the reason Jesus asked his disciples:  “But who do you say that I am?”  was because he wanted them to know him --- and his mission --- on a deeper level.  I also think he was challenging them not just to know about him, but to come to know him, personally and intimately.  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   In the section we read this Sunday, Shebna, the master of the palace of King Hezekiah, has opposed Isaiah’s council.  In response, Isaiah prophesies Shebna’s loss of position and power.  “Thus says the Lord to Shebna, master of the Palace; ‘I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.’”  

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   In the section we read this Sunday Paul reminds us that the ways and work of God are beyond our comprehension. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  How would you respond to Jesus question:  “But who do you say that I am?”   
2.  What helps you to come to know someone?   Does this also work with Jesus?
3.  I need to continually remind myself that the ways and work of God are beyond my comprehension.  Is this true for you as well?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.

 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081714.cfm

Our Gospel this weekend presents us with what --- at least initially --- looks like an unflattering picture of Jesus.   We are told that a Canaanite woman came to Jesus and called out:  “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”   We are told that Jesus “did not say a word in answer to her.”    Jesus’ disciples want him to send her away.  Jesus response to them was: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”   But the woman “came and did Jesus homage, saying Lord, help me.”  Jesus tried to brush her off with the rather abrupt response that: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”   In reply the woman said: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”   Jesus responded to her by telling her:  “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”     

What are we to make of this strange conversation?   First, it must be noted that historically Jews had little to do with Canaanites.   Jesus’ response, then, would have been in line with the spirit of the times.  Second, while eventually Jesus commissioned and sent his disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations, initially he wanted their mission to begin with the Jews.  Thirdly, though, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus as he does elsewhere in the Gospels, responded to the woman’s obvious faith.   It is the woman’s faith that is the most important element in this Gospel. 

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It shares the theme of the Gospel.  In it Isaiah prophesizes:  “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord ………. All who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer………. for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”    

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  In this section, Paul, while identifying himself as the “apostle to the Gentiles,” also preaches to his fellow Jews and reminds them that “the gifts and call of God are irrevocable.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:    
1.    When you have prayed about something, have you ever felt that initially your prayer was rebuffed?    
2.    Has your faith ever drawn you to deeper prayer? 
3.    If God wants God’s house to be a house of prayer for all peoples, why do some want to limit access?    

For many years I lived with what a friend of mine liked to call: “an attitude of scarcity.” I was always worried that there was never going to be enough — especially enough money. I suspect I developed this attitude during my college years when I was worried about paying tuition and other bills.  After ordination I continued to worry about money. And because I worried there would not be enough, there often wasn’t enough. The fact of the matter is, however, that no matter how much money I had, it wouldn’t have been enough. Enough was always more than I had at any given moment.   

My “attitude of scarcity” continued for several years. Surprising enough, however, it began to change one day when I was the victim of a burglary. For several years, at the end of each day I would put my spare change in a large decorative wooden box someone had given me. Every now and again, I would count the money and was pleased and excited when at one point it totaled over five hundred dollars. Then one night when I was away on my day off, someone broke in to the rectory and stole my box of money — along with several other items.   

The police were called and a report filed with the insurance company. I was informed, though, that because there was no way of verifying the amount of money that was stolen, there was nothing they could do about it. Initially, I was frustrated and angry. I worried that because I lost my stash of cash, I would certainly encounter some problem or difficulty and I wouldn’t have enough money to deal with it.  I waited and worried — but nothing happened. I survived the loss without incident. I didn’t have to cut back on my expenses or make other sacrifices. And actually my life went on quite nicely. 

When I talked about this incident with my spiritual director he suggested that perhaps I had turned a corner, and instead of having an “attitude of scarcity,” I was beginning to develop an “attitude of abundance.” An attitude of abundance tells us that because God loves us, there will always be enough, that we don’t have to worry. An attitude of abundance is not suggesting a simplistic: “don’t worry, be happy” philosophy. Rather, it is an attitude that reminds us that worry is a waste of imagination. What will happen, will happen. Yet in anything and everything that happens, God is with us. Jesus was clear about this. “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you more important than they.  Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span.”  Matthew 6:26  

An attitude of scarcity seems to reoccur with irritating regularity in my life, especially when I find myself worrying about something. At those times I need to remember that as God has been with me and cared for me in the past, so God is with me now and will be in the future. This doesn’t mean that I won’t encounter difficult or unpleasant situations. And it doesn’t mean that I will always have everything I want. I have learned, though, that in God’s love we are held firm and secure, and with God’s love there is always enough. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  


http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081014.cfm

Our Gospel this weekend follows immediately after last Sunday’s Gospel, which contained the story of feeding of the five thousand.  We are told that Jesus “made his disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  After doing so, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.”   Often in the scriptures we are told that Jesus went off by himself to pray.  This is a good model for us.  In this instance, though, while Jesus was praying and the disciples were in the boat, a storm came up and the boat was being tossed about by the waves.   We are told that Jesus “came toward them walking on the sea.  When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.”   Peter then said:  “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”   Jesus told him to come, but when Peter “saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Jesus then stretched out his hand and caught Peter.  “After they got into the boat, the wind died down.  Those who were in the boat did him homage saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’”   

There is much that could be said about this Gospel.  Perhaps its most important lesson, though, is that it reminds us that in the storms of our lives Jesus is always with us, and when we cry out to him in our need, he will respond to us.  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the first Book of Kings.   It is the wonderful story of Elijah fleeing to Mount Horeb.  He is tired and ready to abandon his role of prophet.  God calls him to “stand on the mountain before the Lord, the Lord will be passing by.”  God, though, was not present in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire. Rather God made God’s presence known in a “tiny whispering sound.”  This reminds us that we can experience God’s presence now only in great and powerful events, but also in small, unexpected ways.  

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  In the section we read this Sunday, Paul expresses his sadness that so many Israelites are unwilling to embrace faith in Jesus Christ.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  In the storms of your life, have you ever called out to God for help?
2.  How did God response to your call?
3.  It is easy to see God’s hand at work in great and powerful events (Acts of God).  When have you felt God’s presence and grace in quiet and subtle ways? 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080314.cfm 


Our Gospel this Sunday is Matthew’s account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the feeding of the 5,000.  We are told that after learning of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew to a “deserted place by himself.” The crowds learned of this and followed him.   When it was evening the disciples came and said to Jesus:  “This is a deserted place and it is already late, dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.   Jesus said to them, ‘There is no need for them to go away, give them some food yourselves.’  But they said to him, ‘Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.’”   Jesus then took what they had blessed it and gave it to the disciples who in turn gave it to the crowds.  “They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over --- twelve wicker baskets full.”  

I have a friend who likes to say:  “See what happens when you pray before you eat.”   And while there is an element of truth to this, I think there are three other things that are important to note in this Gospel.  First, notice that Jesus started with what the disciples had.  Second, after he blessed it he gave it to the disciples to distribute to the crowds.  Third, notice the abundance that was left over.   Taken together these things remind us that amazing things can happen when we allow God to bless what we have.   

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It shares the theme of the Gospel.  In the section we read this weekend the Lord invites the people to come to him “without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk ………… Heed me, and you will eat well you shall delight in rich fare.”  

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.  In the section we read this weekend we are reminded that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  

Questions of Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Have you ever felt that you didn’t have the resources/gifts needed to do something?   
2.  Has God ever blessed your efforts so that you were able do something you didn’t think you could do? 
3. Have you ever felt separated from God’s love?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072714.cfm

For the past two Sundays we have been reading from the 13th chapter  of Matthew’s Gospel, which contains several of Jesus’ parables.  This Sunday we conclude this chapter with three more of Jesus’ parables.  The first two are very brief.  They are the parable of the treasure buried in a field and the merchant’s search for fine pearls.  In both cases the individuals sell all they have in order to possess the treasure and the pearl.  This reminds us that the kingdom of God is so valuable that we should do all that we can to obtain it.   

The third parable this Sunday is a bit enigmatic.  It is the parable of the “net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets.  What is bad they throw away.”   Jesus then says:  “Thus it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace....”  This reminds us that there will be a time of judgment, but the time of that judgment belongs to God, as does the judging.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the first Book of Kings.  Solomon has succeeded his father David as King.  In a dream the Lord said to Solomon: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”  In reply Solomon does not ask for wealth or power.  Instead he said: “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”  This was my prayer when I was first named a pastor in 1987.  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   In the brief section we read today Paul reminds us:  “We know that all things work for good for those who love god, who are called according to his purpose.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 
1.  What is important to you?  What do you treasure?  
2.  If you don’t already possess your treasure, what would you do to possess it?  
3.  If God asked you what you wanted, what would ask for? 

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