Fr. Bauer's Blog

Click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser for this Sunday’s readings.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060814-day-mass.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  This celebration reminds us that all of us have  been baptized into one and the same Spirit --- the Advocate --- who has been given as gift to the followers of Jesus.   

Our Gospel reading for this Feast is from the Gospel of John.   It records a resurrection appearance of Jesus and his words to his disciples: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”    

Our first reading this weekend is from the Acts of the Apostles.  We are told that “………. they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like 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, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”   

We shouldn’t think these two different accounts of the gift of the Spirit are at odds with one another.  Rather, they remind us that at times the Spirit comes to us in a gentle and quiet manner, and at other times the Spirit comes in a powerful and very evident manner.   This connects well with our second reading for this Sunday from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.   In the section we read today, we are reminded that “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit, there are different forms of service but the same Lord; who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Sprit is given for some benefit.”  


Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  When have you experienced the Spirit in a quiet and gentle manner?
2.  When have you experienced the Spirit in a manner that has been powerful and evident?
3.  What manifestation (gift) of the Spirit have you been given?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser:
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060114-ascension.cfm 

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.   (This Solemnity used to be celebrated on the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday of Easter, but several years ago, the Bishops of our Province made the decision to transfer this celebration to Sunday.)  Our Gospel for this Solemnity is taken from the Gospel of Matthew.  It does not speak of the Ascension directly.  Instead we are told that “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.  When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted.”   Jesus then gave them the great commission “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you until the end of the age.”      

We should not be concerned that we are told that while the disciples worshipped Jesus, they still doubted.   Faith, as we know from our own experience, is not the same as certainty.  Rather, faith reminds us that even in our uncertainty, Jesus is always with us, and is leading and guiding us until the end of the age.    

Our first reading this Sunday is the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.  It records the Ascension of Jesus, but prior to that it also records Jesus farewell words to his disciples:  “’But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’   When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”   

Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.   In the section we read today Paul prays:  “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call………………” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Have you ever worshipped, but doubted?
2.  How are you called to give witness to Christ in/through your life?
3.  How do you see things through the “eyes of the heart?”  

Recently Pope Francis, in an action that didn’t gain a lot of attention, added the name of Blessed Peter Faber, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits), to the company of the saints, short-circuiting the normal canonization process. In an August interview with Antonio Spadaro S.J. for Civiltà Cattolica, a periodical published by the Jesuits in Rome, Pope Francis spoke of Faber as a "model" for himself, both as a Jesuit and now in the governance of the universal church.  The Pope said he admired Faber for his ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving."

When I read the Pope’s words, my immediate reaction was: what a great idea, canonizing someone who was able to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents." Holding up someone like Peter Faber as a model of sanctity, and a way of life worth emulating, reminds us that as Catholics we should never disregard or disdain those with whom we disagree. Certainly this runs counter to the way many in our church deal with those they regard as their opponents.  

In our in our church these days there are times when it is not enough simply to disagree with others. Instead, at times we tend to demonize those with whom we disagree, or worse invite them to find another church. This behavior is not limited to a particular group. I have seen people on both ends of the spectrum --- liberal and conservative --- engage in this conduct. Frankly and bluntly, I find this kind of behavior embarrassing at best.   

When Jesus called his first disciples he simply said: "Follow me." There was no litmus test to see if they passed muster. He simply invited them to follow him. And it was in following him that they came to understand what they were called to believe, and how they were called to live as his disciples. And we know from the Gospel that some found his words too difficult and simply left. In fact we are told that as a result of the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel that "many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him." Notice, though, that Jesus never spoke ill of those who left. He didn’t demonize them. And he never asked them to leave. When people left his fellowship, it was always their decision.

I am excited that Pope Francis has name Peter Faber, S.J. a saint. I am pleased and grateful that he did so because he appreciated Peter Faber’s ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents."  And I am going to pray for St. Peter Faber’s intercession so that I can be more like him in my life.

To find this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052514.cfm

Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from that part of John’s Gospel known as the Last Supper Discourse.   In it, Jesus prepares his disciples for his death, resurrection, and eventual ascension into heaven.  He tells his disciples: “I will not leave you orphans.”   Rather, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth………..”   Additionally, twice in this Gospel Jesus invites his disciples to demonstrate their love for him by keeping his commandments.   And his commandments are simply that we “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all you mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Lk. 10:27)   

Clearly for Jesus if we strive to love God and our neighbor this creates a new relationship with them --- a relationship of love. In essence we are family to one another and thus are never orphans.

Once again our first reading this weekend is the Acts of the Apostles.   In the section we read this Sunday we hear that Philip “proclaimed the Christ” in Samaria, and “when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John who went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is taken again from the first Letter of Saint Peter.    In today’s section Peter exhorts the people to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  Have you ever felt alone or on your own, e.g. orphaned, and then realized God was with you? 
2.  How have you experienced the Spirit of Truth --- the Advocate promised by Jesus --- in your life?
3.  What explanation would you offer as the reason for your hope?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051814.cfm

“Don’t worry, Be happy” was the title of a song made popular several years ago by Bobby McFerrin.  From my rather biased perspective the lyrics of this song were just this side of insipid. They encouraged a relaxed “don’t worry about anything” attitude without offering a reason why we shouldn’t worry.   A superficial reading of today’s Gospel could give one the impression that Jesus is advocating a similar approach to life when he told his disciples:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”   The fact is though, that Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled because he is “the way, the truth and the life” and he is “going to prepare a place for us”, so that he “ will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  

Jesus goes on to tell us the reason we can trust his words is because “The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.”    Jesus is clear that if we have trouble believing his words, his works should convince us to trust in him and not let our hearts be troubled.  

We continue reading from the Acts of the Apostles for our first reading this Sunday.  As the early community of disciples continued to grow, “the twelve” didn’t think it was right “to neglect the word of God to serve at table.”   They suggested that the community “select from among you seven reputable men, filled with Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task,”    We identify these men as the first deacons in the early church.

Again this Sunday our second reading is taken from the first Letter of Saint Peter.     In the section we read this Sunday, Paul reminds us that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

1. When has your heart been troubled?
2. Did your faith help you to find peace when your heart was troubled?  
3. Have you ever thought of yourself and being “chosen?”  

A few weeks ago, I texted a friend of mine to ask how his mother was doing. She had some surgery and had experienced some complications after surgery. He texted back that his mom was doing great. In his text message he went on to say: “God is so good. He has bedbugs (sic) so good to her and our entire family.” Now I was pretty sure that he meant to type that “God has been so good to her and their entire family,” but I texted him back just to be sure. He claimed he was a victim of his phone’s autocorrect program, and having myself fallen prey to autocorrect, I could certainly understand how that could happen.   

When you are typing fast, and if you have chubby fingers, it is easy to mistype a word. And with autocorrect, you may not even realize your error unless you proofread your message before you send it. Most of the time, when I am sending a text or an email, because I know what I intend to say, I just expect it to be there. I have been surprised on more than one occasion, though, when I mistyped a word, that autocorrect had changed it to a word I hadn’t intended. And in most cases the new word had changed what I intended to say.  

I would guess that 95% of the time autocorrect is a good thing. It can save time and effort in our communication efforts when we don’t have to go back and correct typos. Occasionally, though, it can be problematic, especially when a mistyped word is changed by autocorrect into something we didn’t intend, as was the case with my friend’s text message. This experience has been a good reminder to me to always proofread my texts and emails before sending them.

While there are times when autocorrect can change the meaning we intended, we are fortunate that we don’t have to worry about this in regard to our prayer. As we are reminded in Psalm 139, “Before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord, you know the whole of it.” (Ps. 139:4)  Having created us, our God knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows our needs, our wants, our heartaches, our joys, our sadness, our sorrows, our every thought. In prayer we don’t have to worry that we will get it wrong, and/or that God won’t understand what it is we are trying to say. God knows what is on our mind and in our heart without our ever having to give voice to it. Knowing this, we need to trust that the God who loved us into existence, will continue to hold us in that love regardless of the words we use in our prayer. 

It is very comforting for me to know that on those days when I’m a bit tongue-tied or the words don’t come out as I want, that God knows and understands my prayer. I don’t need to worry that anything will change the meaning or intent of my prayer. This is true for all of us. Before ever a word is on our tongue, God knows the whole of our prayer. And while God does not always answer our prayer in the way we had anticipated or hoped, God does hear our prayers, and will always give us the grace we need in our lives.  

To find this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051114.cfm  

The fourth Sunday of Easter is often called Good Shepherd Sunday because in our three year cycle of readings the Gospels for these Sundays taken from the 10th Chapter of John’s Gospel in which Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd.  

In the section of John’s Gospel we read this weekend, Jesus reminds us that the Good Shepherd enters through the gate, and “the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…………. He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.”   Later in the Gospel Jesus says:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved……………. I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”  

Clearly Jesus was reminding us that it is in listening for his voice and in following him we will find our salvation. 

In our first reading this Sunday from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Peter exhort the people: “Repent and be baptized, everyone one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”   We are told that “those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.”  

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the first Letter of Saint Peter.   Peter’s words continue the theme of the Gospel.  “For you have gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1. What helps you to listen for the voice of the shepherd? 
2. What do you think Jesus meant when he said that he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly? 
3.  Have you ever “gone astray?” What helped you to return to the shepherd?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.   http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050414.cfm   

Our Gospel this weekend is the beautiful story of two of Jesus’ disciples encountering the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus.   We are told that initially they didn’t recognize him.   He walked with them, though, and talked with them and “interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”    When “he gave the impression that he was gong on farther, they urged him: ‘Stay with us,”    And “while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”    The disciples then made their way to Jerusalem “where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them…………….Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”   

I’d like to suggest that the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is really all of our stories.  There are times when Jesus walks with us on our journey of life, but for some reason we are not able to recognize him.  Then something happens and our eyes are opened and we realize that Jesus has indeed been with us all along.   Those moments of insight and recognition don’t occur as often as I would like, but the memory of them helps me to believe that Jesus is always with me ---- even and perhaps especially at those times when, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I am experiencing some turmoil or confusion.   

In our first reading this weekend from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter boldly proclaims Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of the Holy Spirit.  “Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth as you see and hear.”   

Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Peter.  In it Peter reminds us that we “were ransomed from your futile conduct, handled on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.    Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, have you ever suddenly discovered Christ’s presence with you? 
2.    What helped you to recognize/realize Christ’s presence?  
3.    The disciples on the road to Emmaus couldn’t wait to share their experience of the risen Lord with the other disciples.   Have you shared your experience of Christ with anyone?   

Please click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser for this Sunday’s readings:
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042714.cfm

Poor Thomas.   Each year on the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) we read the account of his doubting that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had appeared to the other disciples while he was absent.   As a result, over the years he has come to be known as “doubting Thomas.” 

Now I have to admit, I have a grudging respect for Thomas.  And as a result, each year I feel compelled to offer a defense of him. I base my defense on three things.  1. I believe the witness of the other disciples wasn’t nearly as strong as it could have been.  Think about it for a minute. The disciples had been with Jesus for three years.  And yet they couldn’t convince Thomas they had seen the risen Lord.   It seems to me that if their witness was a little more compelling, perhaps they could have convinced Thomas.  2.  When Jesus first appeared to his disciples we are told that after he had greeted them “He showed them his hands and his side.”   Jesus must have known that his disciples would need to see some kind of physical proof before they would believe he had risen from the dead.  Thomas was asking for no more than what the other disciples had already been given.  3.  When Jesus appeared a week later he invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail wounds and his hand in his side.  Thomas, though, didn’t do this. Instead he was the first to give voice to Easter faith: “My Lord and my God.”   The other disciples had a whole week to think about their encounter with the risen Lord, but none of them had put it all together in a clear, concise, and dramatic statement of faith.   

Given the above, I think Thomas deserves to be “rehabilitated” or at least to lose the nickname: “doubting Thomas.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles.  It speaks of the life of the early Christian community.  “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.”  

In our second reading this Sunday, from the first Letter of Saint Peter, we are reminded that because of Jesus’ resurrection we have been given “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1. Do you think Thomas deserves the nickname: “doubting Thomas”?   
2. How would you try to convince someone of Jesus’ resurrection?
3. Is it more difficult for modern day Christians to devote themselves to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer than it was for the early Christians?  Why or why not?  

A few weeks ago I updated the instructions for my funeral. It definitely was time to do this, as a few of the priests I had suggested as homilists have left ministry to marry. Now please don’t worry or start celebrating, I am not sick and/or dying. Rather, priests of our Archdiocese are asked to plan their funeral so that if we should die suddenly there is clarity about our wishes and intent. It also helps our families who would otherwise be left with the unenviable task of trying to figure out what we would want in regard to our funeral. I think my instructions are fairly simple and when the time comes, I hope they will be honored. I just hope Johan can find the elephants for the procession on short notice. 

It is a sobering task to plan one’s funeral. And I did shed a few tears in the process. If the truth be told, however, there was also a certain “rightness” to this task. It was very faith affirming. I say this because it reminded me that while funerals are a celebration of a person’s life, they are also — and from my perspective more importantly — an affirmation of our faith. For our faith calls us to believe that death is not the end; that because of Jesus Christ the promise and gift of eternal life is offered to all believers.    

In one of the Prefaces (the prayer that leads into the Holy, Holy, Holy) for the Mass of Christian burial we hear the words: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed, not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.” I like the idea that at the time of death “life is changed, not ended.” For me this speaks powerfully not just of our belief in eternal life, but in the idea of the “communion of saints”  —our belief in our fellowship in Christ, not only among us believers here on earth, but also between us and those who have died marked with the sign of faith. We don’t lose those who have died; rather our relationship with them takes on another dimension as we now share the life of Christ with them in a new way.     

Certainly the time of death is a time of sadness and sorrow as we mourn the loss of someone who was a part of our lives. For believers, though, because of our belief in the promise of eternal life, it is also a time of hope and faith. On this great Feast of Easter as we remember and celebrate Christ’s resurrection, we also remember and celebrate his promise of eternal life which he offers to all those who believe in and seek to follow him. For it is the promise of eternal life that gives us comfort and consolation at the time of death, and hope as we continue our lives in faith.   

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