Archives: November 2015

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120615.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the second Sunday of the season of Advent.   In our Gospel this Sunday we encounter the figure of John the Baptist.   John is a central figure during Advent.   He is the precursor of Christ ----- the one who came to prepare the way for Christ.   His message was simple. “John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”     

In this Sunday’s Gospel Luke introduces John by describing a very specific place and time.  “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip, tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah in the desert.”   I suspect the reason for this specificity is that Luke wanted to place the beginning of John’s ministry on center stage in world and local history at that time.  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Baruch.   The people of Israel are in exile in Babylon and feeling abandoned and hopeless.   In the face of this situation, Baruch reminds them that God has not forgotten them, and he offers them a vision of hope for the future.  “Up, Jerusalem!  Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”   

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.   In the section we read today Paul offers a prayer for the Philippians.   “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ……………”  

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:

  1. Advent is a season of preparation rather than a season of repentance. What do you need to do to prepare for Christ during the season of Advent? 
  2. Baruch offers a vision of hope for Israel in their exile.  Is there a scripture passage that offers you a vision of hope?  
  3. Paul prays that the Philippians will discern what is of value.   How do you discern what is of value?            

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112915.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new Church year.   We are on a three year cycle for our Sunday readings.   We just finished with the “B” cycle where our Gospel readings were taken primarily from the Gospel of Mark.   This Sunday we begin the “C” cycle of readings, and our Gospels will be taken primarily from the Gospel of Luke.   

The major theme(s) of the season of Advent can be summed up in the words: preparation, vigilance, anticipation, and wakefulness as we wait in joyful hope our celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as well as his coming at the end of time.  

Our Gospel this Sunday, like our Gospel last Sunday, is apocalyptic in tone.  Jesus tells his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves………………… And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”    While we wait for these signs to occur we are to be vigilant so that “your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap………………… Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”  

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah.   It is a prophecy of hope to the Israelites who faced the conquest of their land by the Babylonians.   “In those days, Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her:  ‘The Lord our justice.’”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians.  In the section we read today Paul prays for the Thessalonians. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you you…………..” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How are you called to “prepare” during this season of Advent?
  2. What helps you to stay steadfast in the face of adversity?
  3. How can you “increase and abound in love?”  

Minnesota Public Radio has announced they will rebroadcast Rabbi Harold Kushner's recent talk at The Basilica of Saint Mary on their station on Wednesday, November 24, at Noon and 9:00pm. Tune in to 91.1FM in the Twin Cities if you'd like to hear the recording.

Thanksgiving Preparations

The Basilica of Saint Mary Employment Ministry and Our Lady of Grace Catholic School student council worked hard today to distribute 29 bins of food to guests in our employment ministry today.  Our Lady of Grace School student council worked with parent volunteers and teachers to put together the bins of food - complete with tablecloths, napkins, recipes, cooking ware and turkeys.  The children were here from 11:30am – 2:30pm setting up, attending Noon Mass, checking people in, serving them refreshments, bringing the food to their cars, and then cleaning up.  

We are extremely grateful for the gift of this community and the opportunities provided through the employment ministry. Thank you!

My grandmother passed away last November. This was not unexpected. At 87-years-old my Grandma Rosie had outlived her husband, two children, two grandchildren, most of her siblings, and countless friends. She had also out lived her diagnoses. In December of 2012, she was diagnosed with cancer and given six weeks—six months, at the very longest—to live. Deciding not to have treatment she turned once again to her Catholic faith.

She knew that the Lord had a plan for her. Even in her final weeks, when she began to question what that plan might be, her faith never wavered. My grandmother had a gift for gently sharing life advice. I remember many times when life would throw me a curveball my Grandma Rosie would say with a smile “let go and let God.” Such simple words, and yet it can be so hard to trust in God’s plan for us. 

I have thought of these words often, especially during this Financial Stewardship season. Donating to a worthy cause requires us to trust that God’s gifts and his plan for us are much greater than any material possession or object we might acquire. It requires us not to focus on what we will need to sacrifice, but instead on what we gain from supporting something bigger than ourselves and sharing the gifts we have been given.

For the past eight years as a staff member at The Basilica I have seen on a daily basis what the generosity and sacrifice of this community makes possible each and every day. I have caught joyous moments of brides on their wedding day and parents baptizing a baby. I have seen compassion shown daily to those who come to our door and need a listening ear. I have seen our staff tirelessly provide comfort for those experiencing loss and sadness, through our grief ministry. I have seen volunteers spend hours counseling individuals in our employment ministry for weeks and months until they have found jobs. These moments—and so many more—are not possible without each and every financial stewardship pledge we receive. And I promise the good generated by your stewardship pledge cannot be overstated. 

This past spring my family and I completed the sometimes daunting, sometimes humorous, always emotional process of cleaning out my Grandma Rosie’s home.

In the old farm house in rural Wisconsin there is no fortune to be made but there are treasures to be found. My grandparents’ wealth did not come in the form of material possessions; it came in the form of their 13 children, 17 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren. It came from the gifts God gave them. They may no longer be there but their possessions speak to what they valued most—faith and family. 

Grandma Rosie lived out her faith every day till her very last and we were the beneficiaries. Going through the house is a reminder to live as she did: to go to church on Sunday, to donate generously whenever possible, to be kind to others, to volunteer your time, prioritize family, and most of all, “let go and let God,” believing in the path God has planned for each of us.

On one hand, we have our worldly belongings—the items that make this life more comfortable, but that we “cannot take with us.” But we also have our treasured connections—belonging to a family, belonging to a community, and belonging to our faith—that provide us true comfort and lasting joy by linking us more closely to one another and to God. 

When you think about your treasured connections, I hope The Basilica and its community bring comfort and lasting joy to each of you. This fall, when you think of the gifts you have been given, I hope you will consider sharing those gifts with our community. 

You can help create a greater good by filling out a Financial Stewardship pledge form and mailing it in, or you can also pledge online at www.mary.org/donate.

Prayer for Peace

The Basilica of Saint Mary held a Prayer for Peace service Sunday, November 15 at 3:00pm in The Basilica.

In response to the recent attacks in France, Lebanon, Egypt, Nigeria, and many other countries, individuals from all faiths were invited to this important service.

Nearly 800 people came together for the service, which was following the Memorial March for Parish beginning at the Alliance Française building in downtown Minneapolis.

Speakers at the service included:

Vespers:  Congressman Keith Ellison

Vespers for Peace and Justice

Reflection:  Christina  Selander Bouzouina, Honorary Consul of France

Jewish Prayer for Peace:  Rabbi Morris J. Allen from Beth Jacob Congregation, Mendota Heights

Christian Prayer for Peace:  Fr. John M. Bauer, Pastor, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

Muslim Prayer for Peace:  Dr. Hamdy El-Sawaf from Islamic Community Center of Minnesota

  • Photo provided by: 
    Terri Ashmore
  • Photo provided by: 
    Terri Ashmore
  • Photo provided by: 
    Terri Ashmore
  • Photo provided by: 
    Terri Ashmore
  • Photo provided by: 
    Terri Ashmore
  • Photo provided by: 
    Terri Ashmore

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112215.cfm 

This coming Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  This Feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925.   Seeing the devastation caused by World War I, Pius established this Feast as a way to remind people that Christ is Lord of both heaven and earth.  Initially this Feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October, but when the Roman Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar in 1969 it was moved to the last Sunday of the liturgical year. (The new liturgical year always begins with the Fist Sunday of Advent.)    

Our readings this Sunday have an apocalyptic tone.  As I have said previously, apocalyptic writing is very stylized.   It uses vivid imagery and dramatic language, as well as visionary and prophetic images to make its point. Apocalyptic language was used in times of trail or difficulty to assure people that despite the suffering of the present moment, God was with them and ultimately would triumph.   Apocalyptic literature is not meant to be taken literally.

Our Gospel this Sunday is taken from the Gospel of John.  It is the scene of Jesus before Pilate.   Pilate asks Jesus:  “Are you the King of the Jews?”   Jesus reminds Pilate and us that “My kingdom does not belong to this world.”   While ostensibly Pilate is in charge of this encounter, from John’s perspective (and ours) Jesus is the one who is in control.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.   It is part of Daniel’s vision in which he saw “one like a Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” to be present to the “Ancient One.”   We would see this language as prefiguring Christ.   

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Revelation.  It is a hymn of praise for Christ.   “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who had made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. We aren’t big on royalty in the United States.  How would you explain Christ the King to an unbeliever?   
  2. What would you say to someone who takes a literal approach to apocalyptic literature?     
  3. What are the hallmarks of one who tries to live as a member of the Kingdom of God? 

My father was a great story teller. Over dinner he acquainted us with distant ancestors we only knew from old photographs and bad paintings. Before bed he made biblical stories truly come alive. And on Saints’ days he regaled us with their famed deeds. These stories have greatly shaped my love and respect for my family, my faith and our saints. They are engraved in my memory.

It is through stories that we hand down from one generation to the next who we are and what we believe. These shared stories shape our memories. And memories are essential to our human existence. Without memory we would have no language because we would be unable to recognize words. Without memory we would have no experience of family because without their stories we would not know our ancestors and contemporaries alike. Without memory we would have no faith because without knowledge of the Bible and the lives of the saints there would be nothing to believe and no-one to worship. Without memory we are simply nothing. Thus the telling of stories and the remembrance of our ancestors both in life and in faith are essential.

Though popular for millennia, our tweeting generation seems to have lost the art of telling stories because story telling takes too many words and too much time. In addition, most saints seem less “cool” today than they were 50 years ago when people collected cards of saints rather than cards of baseball players. And who, today wants to know what caused a great-aunt to enter the convent or an uncle to join the army? All of that lies in the past and is not helpful for a now-obsessed generation. This worrisome ttrend puts our collective memory at risk and thus poses a challenge to our human experience.

Thankfully, many of us still want to know where we have come from and who has gone before us. The faded photo of a long since gone ancestor in full habit standing in the desert begs the question as to who she was and what she did. The statues of numerous saints stand quietly in their shrines waiting for us to notice them, to recognize them and to remember them.

The month of November is the preferred time in our church calendar to remember all those who have gone before us, both saints and sinners. We have the Icons of the saints in our sanctuary begging the question as to their story. We have the photos of our beloved dead on our side altars inviting us to remember and share all the things they did, both good and bad. And we inscribe their names in our Book of Remembrance commending them to the mercy of God.

I often think back on the treasured moments spent listening to my father’s stories. It is in his deep resonant voice that I remember David in the Lion’s Den and St. Francis’ encounter with the wolf. It is in his voice that I recall the time my grandfather spent in a German concentration camp and my grandmother’s “visit” with Pope John XXII. Now it is my turn to tell our stories. It is your turn to tell your stories.

So, on Thanksgiving, rather than filling your home with ceramic pumpkins and papier-mâché turkeys – not that there is anything wrong with that – pull out pictures of your family, dust off the statues of the saints and tell their story for their story is yours.

 

 

 

Many years ago I visited a parishioner in the hospital who had been diagnosed with advanced cancer. I had been told by the family that she didn’t have more than a few weeks to live, and would be moving to hospice when she left the hospital. When I stopped at the nurse’s station to see if it was okay to visit, the nurse said that would be fine. I noticed, though, that they were just beginning to bring around the lunch trays, and so, I indicated that I could stop back later. The nurse replied that my timing was actually good as people usually ate better when someone was with them. I entered my parishioner’s room just as an aide had brought in the lunch tray. I told my parishioner to go ahead and eat, and that we could talk while she ate. While she ate, we had a lovely visit as she told me about her husband and family and her life. After about 25 minutes I indicated that I probably should be going. She thanked me for visiting and then almost as an afterthought said that she hated eating alone so the timing of my visit couldn’t have been better. 

The two things I remember about this visit were the nurse’s words that people usually eat better when someone was with them, and my parishioner’s words that it was nice to have someone with her while she ate because she hated eating alone. Over the years, I’ve come to realize how important these things are. Being with someone and conversing with them while they eat can be the difference between just ingesting food and sharing a meal. Eating with someone can also help us better appreciate the food. It can also fill us up—not just physically, but in other ways as well. 

I believe the above is the reason why, when Jesus’s time on this earth was coming to an end, he chose to share a meal with his disciples and then to command them to “do this in memory of me.” Jesus knew the importance of sharing a meal with others. He knew that this wasn’t just a way to nourish their bodies, but also a way to nourish their spirits. I suspect he also knew that people ate better when there was someone with them. 

We believe that in the Eucharist that Jesus left us, that Jesus is really and truly present. Further, we believe that when we receive the Eucharist it strengthens us and sustains us that we might become more like Christ. As St. Augustine said many years ago: “Behold what you are. Become what you receive” The Eucharist is not a reward for life well lived. Rather it is to help us live life well. It helps us to better follow Christ and to better bring Christ to the world around us.  

In addition to being a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, though, the Eucharist is also a communal event. As we gather to celebrate and share the Eucharist we are reminded that as we seek to follow Christ, we do so within a community of faith. It is the community that strengthens and sustains us when our energy begins to wan and our efforts feel unproductive. In the Christian community, we are reminded that there is no private dining at the table of the Lord. We are all in this together, and we need the encouragement and support of one another as we seek to be and to bring the presence of Christ in our world.  

The Eucharist is a great gift and blessing. It is a sacred communal meal we share and that empowers us to follow Christ and to be Christ in our world. For this gift let us never fail to give thanks. Because of this gift let us pray that we might become what we believe. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111515.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time.  Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King which is the end of this liturgical year.   As always, as we come close to the end of a liturgical year the readings focus our attention on the end times.   This is the case with our Gospel reading today.   In that reading we hear Jesus tell his disciples that after some time of tribulations “they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”   Jesus then tells his disciples:  “when you see these things happening, know that the is near at the gates.”  After this dire warning, the Gospel closes with the somewhat enigmatic statement that "of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”   

What are we to make of this Gospel?   Well I think it reminds us that while we do believe that Christ will return at the end of time in the glory of the final age, we also need to be aware that Christ is still present in our midst today.   And while we need to be aware of and prepared for the end times, one of the best ways to do this is to strive to be aware of and prepared to meet Christ in our daily lives.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.   It is apocalyptic literature, which was written to a people who were experiencing trials or tribulations.  It uses vivid language and images to remind people that despite any trials or difficulties ultimately good will triumph.   In today’s reading we are told there will be a time “unsurpassed in distress.”   At this time, though, “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament.”   

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.  It reminds us that “But this one (Jesus) offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God.   Now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. If only the Father knows when the end times will occur why are some people so fascinated with trying to discern the signs of the end times?
  2. What helps you to be aware of Christ’s presence on a daily or regular basis? 
  3. Have trials/tribulations ever caused you to think about giving up on God?  

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