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/100916.cfm   

Our Gospel this weekend is the story of Jesus healing 10 lepers.  We are told that he when entered a village, “ten lepers met him.  They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’”   Jesus told them: “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  While they were on their way to the priests “one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.”   Jesus inquired as to where the other nine were:  “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  Jesus then told the leper: “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”    

There are three things to note in this story.  First, the reason the lepers stood at a distance from Jesus was because at that time it was not known how leprosy was transmitted.  Given this, lepers were required to live apart from and in fact have no contact with other people.  Second, there was great animosity between Samaritans and Jews.  It was significant then that the one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan.  Finally, notice Jesus’ final words: “your faith has saved you.”  The leper not only received a physical healing, but also the gift of salvation.  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the second Book of Kings. It is the story of the healing of Naaman the leper.  The important thing to note about Naaman’s healing was that he was a non-Jew, yet was cured of his leprosy through the intercession of the prophet Elisha.  This reading, in conjunction with the cure of the Samaritan leper in the Gospel, reminds us that God’s love and care are inclusive,  and extend to everyone --- no exceptions, no limitations, and no qualifications.   

Our second reading this weekend is once again taken from the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy.  In the section we read this weekend, Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that despite any hardship we encounter, we can be sure that:  “If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Occasionally, some one (unfortunately, often a religious figure) will make some statement about God’s love being restricted to a chosen few.  In light of this weekend’s Gospel, how would you respond to them? 
  2. Faith can be a very powerful force in our lives.  What helps us to keep growing in our faith? 
  3. What do you think it means to “live with Christ” after we have died?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100216.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday comes in two sections.   In the first section the disciples ask Jesus to “Increase our Faith.”  Jesus told them:  “If you have faith the size of a mustard see, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”   In the second section of the Gospel Jesus, used the imagery of a servant and master to remind us that:  “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;  we have done what we were obligated to do.’”   Both of these sections deserve comment.   

For those who have never seen a mustard seed, it is indeed a very small seed.   Several years ago at another parish we gave out mustard seeds at the beginning of summer and invited parishioners to plant them and bring them back at the end of summer to see how big they had grown.   The seeds were so small that volunteers who taped them to 3 X 5 index cards complained that they nearly went blind doing so.   At the end of the summer, though, the seeds had grown into large plants.   Jesus used the image of the mustard seed to remind us that if we had faith even the size of a very small mustard seed, great things could happen.   

Jesus was also clear that God is not obligated to do things for us, or to give us heaven.  God has established us in this world out of love for us, and God has given us charge over it.   Our task, our obligation is to respond in love to God and do what God has commanded.  If we do this, then God will respond to us in love, not out of obligation.   Being a faithful disciple does not obligate God to do things for us.   God does all that God does out of love for us.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Habakkuk.  In it the prophet laments God’s silence in the face of violence, ruin, misery, strife and discord.  God responded clearly and forthrightly.  “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint, if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”   This reminds us that God is working even when we are not aware of it.   We are called to wait patiently and in trust.  This is part of what faith is all about. 

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In it Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that we are called to persevere in faith in the face of adversity “with the strength that comes from God.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What does having faith mean to you?
  2. How do you persevere in faith in the face of adversity or hardship? 
  3. What would you say to someone who feels God is silent in the face of their prayer? 

I wish God would be clear about what He wants me to do. These words were spoken by a friend of mine a few months ago when I was talking with him about a decision he needed to make. He went on to say that he had been praying and praying for guidance and direction and nothing was happening.  He was feeling more than a bit frustrated. I knew there wasn’t anything I could say that would be very helpful, so instead I gave him a prayer by the late Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin entitled "Patient Trust." It begins with the words: Above all, trust in the slow work of God. I have used this prayer in my own life at times too numerous to mention.  It has helped me to continue to move forward when clarity has been lacking, and I am feeling frustrated and confused.

I think clarity is something all of us have longed for at one time or another. It would be great if God gave us a clear set of expectations and directions for what we are to do in specific situations, instead of the generic: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Now certainly we also have the 10 commandments, but they tell us more what we aren’t supposed to do, rather then what we are supposed to do. Many times, though, and in various circumstances, the direction we should take or the decision we should make isn’t at all evident and we are left feeling confused, and praying for clarity.

Now, clearly knowing what we should do in specific situations would be much easier if we were faced with a choice between a bad thing and a good thing. Too often, however, our choices are between doing this good thing, or that good thing, or another good thing. In these instances clarity from God would certainly be welcome and would make our lives much easier. Why then, doesn’t God give us the clarity we often long for, especially when we are praying for this clarity with great sincerity?

I believe the reason God doesn’t give clear and specific direction to us despite our sincere and heartfelt prayers has to do with our free will. One of God’s great gifts to us is our free will. This gift allows us to make our own decisions and to set our own course in life. If we didn’t have free will, if God simply told us what to do, we would be automatons.

Our free will, though, allows us to make are own decisions both good and bad. Free will is one of the things that defines us as humans and sets us apart from the other creatures on our planet.

Does the above mean that we are left rudderless and on our own in regard to any guidance and direction from God as to how we are to live? Absolutely not. God is always offering us God’s grace. God does this, though, in subtle and gentle ways so as not to overwhelm us and negate our free will. And so, when we pray for clarity and guidance we need to trust that God’s hand is guiding us. Certainly it is not always easy to trust in the slow work of God. I am convinced, though, that it is the way that will ultimately bring us the clarity we seek. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092516.cfm

The Story of Lazarus and the rich man in this Sunday’s Gospel is very well known.   Lazarus was a poor man “covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.”   When he died “he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.”    The rich man likewise died and “from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far-off and Lazarus at this side.   And he cried out ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.  Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue for I am suffering in torment in these flames.’  Abraham replied ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad, …………Moreover between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to  go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’”   The rich man tried to convince Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them, but Abraham replied:  “They have Moses and the prophets.  Let them listen to them.”  

I think there are three things this Gospel tells us.   1. It wasn’t that the rich man refused Lazarus’ request for assistance.  Rather, even though he knew Lazarus by name, he didn’t notice Lazarus’ need.   2.  The rich man thought only of himself.  It never occurred to him to share his wealth with those who were less fortunate.  3.  The rich man was in the netherworld, because of the choices he made in this life.  In a similar way our choices in this life determine where we will spend eternal life.  There are no “do overs” or second chances once we have died.  

Our first reading this Sunday shares the theme of the Gospel.  Speaking in God’s name the prophet Amos excoriates those who were indifferent to the needy.  “Woe to the complacent in Zion! …………… Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.”  

We continue to read from the first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy for our second reading this Sunday.   In the section we read this weekend, Paul encourages Timothy to “Compete well for the faith.”  


Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you come to realize after the fact that you failed to notice someone in need?  
  2. Have you ever regretted some of the choices you have made that were selfish or self serving?   
  3. How does one compete well for the faith?

   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091816.cfm  

In our Gospel this Sunday Jesus tells the parable of the steward who was reported to his master “for squandering his property.”   The master’s decision to dismiss the steward for his mismanagement would not have been surprising to the original hearers of parable.  Being a steward was an important and prestigious position.  An individual who failed to properly discharge the duties of this position deserved to be fired.   The steward’s response to his impending termination was very interesting.   He knew he was in a tough spot, so he “called in his master’s debtors one by one,” and reduced the amount they each owed his master.   The parable ends with the enigmatic statement:  “And the master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently.”    

What are we to make of this parable?   Was Jesus praising or endorsing the steward’s acts?  I don’t think so.  Rather, Jesus was commending the steward’s ingenuity, his resourcefulness in responding to a very difficult situation.   The steward acted decisively and cleverly to assure a future for himself.   The point of the parable, then, is that if the steward, who couldn’t have been all the smart to begin with (after all he squandered his master’s property) could act decisively and resolutely to ensure his earthly future, shouldn’t we as followers of Jesus act just as decisively and just as resolutely to ensure our eternal future.   

The first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Amos.    In this reading the Lord ominously promises never to forget those “who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” 


The second reading this Sunday is taken from the first Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.   In this reading Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that prayer is to be an integral part of our lives: “in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. While I understand that this Sunday’s parable is encouraging us to be decisive and resolute in ensuring our eternal future, I’m not sure how to do this on a day to day basis.   How do you see this played out in your life
  2. I am a bit unnerved at the message of the first reading that God will not forget those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.   This doesn’t seem to square with our belief that God is love.   How do you reconcile these two ideas? 
  3. Do you believe you have an obligation to pray for others --- even people you don’t know, or worse that you don’t like?

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091116.cfm 

It seems to be part of the human experience that at times we misplace or lose things.  And losing something can be an annoying, and sometimes even a traumatic experience.    In our Gospel this Sunday Jesus tells two familiar parables about people who have lost things --- a shepherd who has lost one of his sheep and a woman who has lost a coin.   In the first case the shepherd leaves ninety-nine sheep, and goes in the search of the one that has wondered away.   In the second case, the woman lights a lamp and sweeps the house in a diligent search for her lost coin.   And in both cases once the lost has been found a celebration ensues.  

What are we to make of these parables?   If we are honest, we need to admit that on the surface it makes no sense at all to leave ninety-nine perfectly good sheep and go in search of one that wondered away.   It also seems odd to expend so much time and energy looking for one lost coin.   The thing we need to remember about parables, though, is that they are meant to tell us something about God or something about our relationship with God.   From this perspective these parables remind us that we are so important to God that if we wonder or stray, God doesn’t simply wait for us to come back.  Rather God comes looking for us.  God seeks us out.  And when we allow ourselves to be found by God, it is cause for celebration.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Exodus.  It is the story of the Israelites turning away from God and worshiping a golden calf.   God says to Moses:  “Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.”   In response, Moses acknowledged that the Israelites had strayed, but reminded God of the promise God had made to Abraham. As a result, “…… the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy.  In the section we read this Sunday, Paul, while acknowledging his sinfulness, also recalls God’s salvific will.  “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”     

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Can you recall a time when you were lost?  What do you remember about the experience? 
  2. If you can remember what it was like to be lost, and then read these parables from that perspective, does that make a difference in regard to how you understand these parables?  
  3. When have you found something that had been lost?   What do you remember about the experience? What does that tell you about God finding us when we are lost?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090416.cfm    

Our Gospel this Sunday addresses the issue of the “cost of discipleship.”   At the beginning of this Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”    After telling two brief parables, the first about knowing the cost of building a tower before undertaking this endeavor, and the second about gauging the likelihood of victory before going into battle, Jesus concludes by saying:  “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciples.”   

What are we to make of these words of Jesus?   Clearly very few of us “hate” our friends and families and/or have renounced all our possessions, and yet we still identify ourselves as followers of Jesus.   Is this a case of selective hearing on our part?    Do we get to choose which words of Jesus to follow and which to ignore?   In response we need to understand that Jesus was using hyperbole to make a point.   We can’t call ourselves his disciples and then live however we want.   Jesus wants us to commit ourselves completely to him.  Nothing is more important than our relationship with him.  We need to let go of anything and everything in our lives that diverts us from that commitment.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Wisdom.   It reminds us that God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our comprehension.   “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to Philemon.  This is Paul’s shortest letter.  It was written to an individual, Philemon, who was a Christian, and whose slave, Onesimus, had run away.   Onesimus had been converted to Christianity by Paul, and now Paul was sending him back to Philemon with the plea.  “So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.”   This request placed Philemon in a difficult position.  If he didn’t punish Onesimus he could be regarded as “soft” by his peers and by his other slaves.  On the other hand, after Paul’s request, if he punished Onesimus, he could be regarded as not a true Christian.    This brief letter reminds us once again that there is a “cost” to discipleship.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Many people either ignore or dismiss the words of Jesus in our Gospel today.  Why is this? 
  2. What do you think Christ is asking you to give up to be his disciple? 
  3. Have you ever been in Philemon’s position, where you have had to make a public decision about how to live out your discipleship?   

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082816.cfm 

In our Gospel this Sunday we are told that Jesus noticed how those who had been invited to a dinner “were choosing places of honor at the table,”.  In response to this he told a parable about places of honor at a wedding banquet.   After the parable Jesus suggested that “When you hold a lunch or a dinner do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have no repayment.  Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”   

In these words, Jesus was not inviting us to feign humility.   Rather I think he was inviting us to engage in humble service of those around us, most particularly the poor and lowly.    An axiom attributed to James Forbes, the pastor of Riverside Church in New York City is: “Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor!”   The humble service we provide those in need is really a measure of our discipleship. 

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach.   It shares the theme of the Gospel.   It exhorts us:  “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.  Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”    

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.   It is composed of two very long sentences.   The opening sentence refers to the Jewish people gathering with Moses on Mount Sinai.   This image is contrasted in the second sentence to the heavenly Jerusalem, where we will be gathered with “God the judge of all” and “Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.”    

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. Why are the poor so important to Jesus?
  2. Why is our concern for the poor so important?
  3. What’s your image of the heavenly Jerusalem?   

A few weeks ago on the Friday evening of the Block Party, I got home a little after 10:00pm and being too wound up to go to bed, I turned on the television and read the paper. As I was flipping through the channels to see if there was anything worth watching, I came across an old episode of Perry Mason that was just starting. For those of you too young to remember, Perry Mason was a television show that ran from the late 50’s to the mid 60’s. The title character played a fictional attorney, who always got the charges (almost always a murder charge) against his client dropped. The show brought back a wave of nostalgia that swept over me. When I was growing up, watching Perry Mason was kind of a right of passage. It meant that you were too old for cartoons and were ready for more adult things. 

As I watched Perry Mason that night, not only did it bring back memories, but I was also struck by the fact that it was in black and white. I suspect at some point they switched to a color format, but this must have been one of the earlier shows. As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that being in black and white was especially appropriate for Perry Mason. In the show there were good guys and bad guys, and there was never any argument about who was who. The good guys always triumphed and the bad guys were always exposed and punished. 

While there are times today when I would like to go back to that black and white world, the reality is that life was not and still isn’t that simple. Rarely are our motives and intentions entirely pure, and there always seem to be mitigating circumstances to explain inappropriate words and actions. Moreover, I think that seldom do people set out to deliberately do something wrong or bad. Rather we end up making bad choices that often have a negative impact on others. Sadly too, sometimes inappropriate words and actions follow from misunderstanding someone else’s words or actions, or misinterpreting a situation. 

Now certainly there are some things that are always clearly and demonstrably wrong. Taking an innocent life is always wrong. We can’t pretend otherwise. I have come to believe, though, that there are shades and hues in most of our behaviors and words that aren’t immediately obvious. And if we take the time to recognize and appreciate this we would be far more understanding and far more forgiving of others and of ourselves. 

The above is something I have been working on for a while now. Some days I think I am making good progress, but then I will find myself falling back into being judgmental or intolerant. I suspect it will be this way until the day I die. 

Living in a black and white world certainly can make our life easier, but that is not the world we live in. And so, while I suspect there will always be times when I struggle to understand another individual’s as well as my own actions. I trust that the God who created me knows my struggles, accepts my failings, forgives my sins, and continues to love me and all of us in spite of everything.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082116.cfm 

This Sunday’s Gospel opens with someone asking Jesus:  “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  Jesus, as often is the case, doesn’t answer the question directly.  Instead he told a parable about the master of a house who, after locking the door for the night, refused to open it when someone knocked and said:  “Lord, open the door for us.”   In replay the master said:  “I do not know where you are from.”  And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me you evildoers.’”    Jesus closes with the words:  “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”    

What are we to make of Jesus words in this Sunday’s Gospel?   Well I think they tell us three things.   1.  Despite what some people would suggest, there is no set number of people who will be saved.   2. A passing familiarity with Jesus isn’t enough to assure salvation.   We are called to know Jesus, not just know about Jesus.   3.  There is an amazing breadth and depth to God’s salvific will.  People from every corner of the earth will be offered a place at the table in the kingdom of God --- perhaps surprising those who thought their place at the table was assured.       

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  Like the Gospel reading it speaks of God’s universal salvific will.   “They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the Lord…………….”

We continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews for our second reading this Sunday.  In this Sunday’s section we are reminded that discipline from God is not a bad thing.   “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines:”  When speaking of discipline, it is important to remember that discipline and discipleship both share the same root.   It is through self discipline that we become disciples.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. In the Gospel Jesus doesn’t answer the question as to how many will be saved.   Why do you think this is?  
  2. It is one thing to know about Jesus.  It is another to know Jesus.  How does one come to know Jesus?  
  3. What “discipline(s)” have helped you to be a better disciple? 

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