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Archives: February 2016
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030616-fourth-sunday-lent.cfm
Today we celebrate the fourth Sunday of the Season of Lent. This Sunday is also known as Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday because our time of penance is drawing to a close as we wait expectantly for Easter.
Our Gospel this weekend is taken from the 15th chapter of Luke’s Gospel --- sometimes referred to as the “lost and found” chapter of Luke’s Gospel because it contains 3 parables about things that are lost and then found. This Sunday we read the familiar and profound parable of the prodigal son. Now as I have mentioned before, it is my belief that this parable actually should be called the parable of the prodigal father. I say this for two reasons.
First, synonyms for the word prodigal are wasteful, reckless, extravagant, profligate. Certainly these words can be applied to the younger son’s lifestyle, but I believe they more properly describe the Father’s love for his two sons. The Father was wasteful, reckless, extravagant --- prodigal --- in his love for his sons. Second, even though neither son understood how much their Father loved them, their blindness was not a barrier to his love. In both cases, the Father “went out” to his Sons to express his prodigal love for them.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Joshua. It takes place when the Israelites have arrived in the “promised land” after their forty year sojourn in the desert. For the first time they are able celebrate the Passover in their new home. This story reminds us of God’s fidelity to God’s promise, even in the face of the Israelites (and our) infidelity to God.
Our second reading this weekend is taken from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In this reading Paul reminds the Corinthians that God “has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and given us the ministry of reconciliation.” These words remind us that it is God’s initiative to bring us back to God.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Parables were a favorite teaching device that Jesus used to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God. What does the parable in today’s Gospel tell you about God?
- I suspect --- if we are honest --- that most of us identify with the elder son in this Gospel as opposed to the younger son. Do you think the elder son ever came to understand his Father’s love?
- Have you ever experienced God’s grace inviting you to reconciliation?
Our ministry to parents of young children is now just over a year old and we are grateful for what we have learned about helping and improving this ministry. One of our newest initiatives is Mass bags with activities for children ages 1-4. After getting many suggestions from parents and other sources, we are excited that these Mass activity bags are now available in the back of The Basilica (signs will be posted so you know where to get them).
You will find books, photos, activity sheets, and more to help our youngest disciples learn a little about their faith as they come week by week. You will be able to take a bag with you as you enter the church, and return it when Mass is over. We are grateful to our parents who brought the suggestion to us, and our hope is that we will be able to have seasonal supplements and activities to help keep the bags fresh over time. This outreach to families is a nice compliment to our recent beginning of our Children’s Liturgy of the Word during the 11:30am Mass, also brought to us by some of our active parents.
Have you ever thought about how many volunteers it takes to make ministry happen at The Basilica? There are many options for getting involved. Volunteer for a one time opportunity, or make a recurring commitment and join a small group for a chance to meet some new people. If you have children at home, you may be looking for volunteer opportunities for your family. Please know there is a place to put your skills and talents to work within our parish, or outside the parish with our community partners.
We are grateful for our cadre of volunteers that flows in and out at The Basilica on weekdays and weekends, but make no mistake, there are plenty of opportunities available now and we welcome your help.
Helping with weekend liturgies is a way to celebrate Mass and volunteer in one trip to The Basilica and be inspired for the week ahead. Volunteers serve as Ministers of Hospitality greeting people as they arrive at Mass and we need more people to help at all of our Masses. Often people join a team to get to know other parishioners, and generally, this is a once a month commitment. Everywhere you look at Masses, you’ll see volunteers in our choirs and serving Eucharistic Ministers. After Masses, we need help staffing our Welcome and Information Desk, and we also need volunteers to serve coffee and donuts and welcome all who join us. These are great opportunities for all ages, including families with children.
On weekends, volunteer catechists teach children and youth about our faith and serve in our Sunday Nursery. Weekdays, volunteers staff our reception desk, greet visitors at our doors, and welcome the hungry with coffee and a sandwich. Volunteer drivers deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors in the downtown area. Some take on a regular shift, while others serve as a backup drivers.
On Thursday evenings, volunteers facilitate our Pathways program to help people working to change and stabilize their lives. A meal is provided, and there is critical need for volunteers to assist with childcare once a month, or once a quarter. Other volunteers serve as mentors to college students who are homeless and enrolled at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Still others participate in our St. Vincent de Paul outreach to those most in need in our community. Volunteer job coaches help the unemployed, and others help build awareness about mental health issues and resources.
Are you good at planning logistics, or do you have a background in sales? You can support all our parish ministries by helping put on fundraising events, or calling on our members and asking for donations. In the summer, we have volunteer gardeners and teams that will help build a new Habitat for Humanity home.
One of the biggest challenges we face is finding volunteers to step into ministry leadership. Day by day, and week by week, volunteers in partnership with staff organize and make our liturgies happen, teach children and adults about their faith and traditions, insure that outreach is available to those in need, involve us in defending others from injustice, and keep parish operations running.
Recently, a group of volunteers and staff met together to explore leadership at The Basilica. We offer this is opportunity about every 18 months. This group got to know each other, and together explored how The Basilica is organized, got to know our staff directors and our pastor, learned about our mission, and our baptismal call.
Please, consider if you are called to get involved. Consider one time opportunities like decorating the church for Easter, or helping the day of the parish picnic, or, if you are looking for a reccurring commitment, join one of our many ministry volunteer teams.
Saint Teresa of Avila put the challenge to us in these words: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.”
How are we going to answer this call to be God's hands and feet in the world?
If you are interested in getting involved, or considering leadership opportunities, reach out to Ashley Wyatt our Volunteer Coordinator.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022816-third-sunday-lent.cfm
“What did I do to deserve this?” People often ask this question when something bad happens to them. While on one level we know there is not a direct correlation between our behavior and bad things happening to us, on another level I suspect all of us occasionally wonder if --- when something bad happens to us --- we aren’t being punished for something. In the first part of our Gospel today Jesus dealt with this issue very directly. He mentioned two specific instances where bad things happened to people. He then asked whether people thought these things happened because the individuals to whom they happened were greater sinners or were more guilty than others. His response was clear. “By no means!” This would have caught his hearers by surprise because at that time it was thought that people experienced bad things because they had done something bad. Jesus is clear, though, that bad things don’t happen to people because they’ve done something bad. Bad things just happen.
The second half of our Gospel today is a brief parable about a fig tree that has not born fruit in three years. The owner of the orchard instructs the gardener to cut it down. The gardener, though, interceded, and suggested that he cultivate the ground and fertilize it to see if the fig tree might bear fruit. This parable speaks to us of God’s enormous patience with us, even when we don’t produce fruit. It serves as a nice counterpoint to the first half of the Gospel where people thought punishment for wrongdoing was swift and sure.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Exodus. It is the story of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush and his being sent by God to the Israelites. God also told Moses the name by which he is being sent: “I am who am.”
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In a none to subtle way, it reminds us not to presume on God’s patience. “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- What would you say to someone who experienced something bad and thought they were being punished for something they had done?
- God gave Moses a name by which Moses could call on him. Is there a name by which you call on God?
- Have you ever presumed on God’s patience?
Many years ago when I was in my last year of college, I needed a half credit class to complete my requirements for graduation. Now at that time in my academic career I wasn’t looking for anything that would be especially challenging or that would require a lot of work. Having dropped out of college once, I just wanted to graduate. With this as my criterion, I scoured the various half credit classes that were offered, and finally found one I thought met my criterion to a “T”—Pottery. With low expectations, but with great hope that the class would allow me to graduate, I signed up for it.
As it turned out taking that pottery class was not one of the best decisions I have ever made. I discovered I had even less artistic talent than I had thought. One of the major requirements of the class was that we had to make a variety of different objects. Some of the objects had to be made by hand and some on the pottery wheel. And the objects actually had to be functional and/or decorative. This proved to be somewhat problematic for me. There were, however, two saving graces in the class. The first was that the teacher offered to be available at various times to help those students for whom the word “remedial” was more than apt. The other saving grace was that the art studio was open until 10:00pm so students could come in during the evening hours and work on their projects. I took advantage of both of these things. And ultimately, I was able to fulfill at the requirements for the class, and to my amazement got a B in the class.
There were a couple things I remember from this experience. The first is that even though something looks easy, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. This taught me not to make assumptions, but to check things out thoroughly before jumping in with both feet. Now clearly I don’t always do this, but on more than one occasion it has helped me to avoid making a big mistake.
The other thing I learned is that when you’re trying to throw a pot on a pottery wheel, a slow and gentle touch is needed. If you try to go too fast, or if you use a heavy hand, the pot doesn’t respond well. The best potters know that a slow and steady touch ultimately will produce the best pot. I suspect this is the reason that the prophet Isaiah referred to God as a Potter. “But now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64.8)
In my own life, I have discovered time and again that God never forces God’s grace on me. Rather like a potter bringing a pot to life on a wheel, God—with a slow and steady touch—molds and shapes me with God’s grace. Now, certainly there are times when I am resistant to God’s grace, but at these times, God, like a master Potter, doesn’t force, but rather continues to gently form and shape me that I might become the person God would have me be.
I am enormously grateful to God for God’s patience and gentle care with me. And I pray that I might strive to be like clay that is malleable and supple, so that I might respond to God’s gentle touch and be formed into the person God would have me be.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022116.cfm
This weekend we observe the second Sunday of the season of Lent. Each year on this Sunday we read one of the accounts of the Transfiguration. Luke’s account varies only slightly from the accounts of Matthew and Mark. Specifically, Luke tells us that Jesus was “at prayer” when the transfiguration occurred, and at the end of the Transfiguration Luke includes the statement that “They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.”
What is most important about the three accounts of the Transfiguration is what they have in common. The incident takes place on a mountain, which in Jewish history was the place of divine encounter. Also, in each account Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. Moses represented the law and Elijah the prophets, the two foundations of the Jewish religion. Finally, in each account there is a voice from heaven identifying Jesus as the beloved or chosen son, followed by the imperative statement: “Listen to him.”
We read the account of the Transfiguration at the beginning of our Lenten journey, to remind us of the life that ultimately awaits us.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Genesis. It is the story of the covenant God made with Abraham (then Abram). Two things are significant in this reading. The first is God’s word to Abraham: “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.” Just so,………. shall your descendants be.” This promise is significant because at that time (and even today) Jewish people did not have a clear sense of an afterlife. The believed that you lived on through your descendants. Thus it was important to have children ---- so you would always be remembered. The second thing that is significant is God’s promise“To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.” Even today the Jews hold dear this promise.
The second reading for this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians. In it Paul urges people to “stand firm in the Lord.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- Certainly the Transfiguration was a singular and unique event. I suspect, though, that we have all had “transfiguring” (with a small “t”) moments in our lives. When have you felt the presence and/or power of God in your life?
- Have you ever felt God inviting you to “listen” to the words of Jesus?
- Have you ever failed to stand firm in the Lord?
Recently, a reporter asked me whether Lent was considered passé by 21st C. Christians. Her question took me a bit by surprise. Not to be stumped I told her that Lent is more important than ever. Lent and Easter offer the perfect antidote to the barrage of negativity we face on a daily basis. So no, Lent is not passé, on the contrary.
Granted, the motivation for people’s participation in the Lenten disciplines may have changed. Visions of purgatory and Hell rarely move people anymore. I suspect it is a profound desire to be better people and the hope for a better world that motivates people to participate in the disciplines of Lent.
After all, the essence of Lent is to right those relationships that have been wronged. Many, if not most of the world’s problems are due to wronged relationships. Different religions quarrel with one another and among themselves. Nations fight other nations. People exploit other people. All these evils are rooted in wronged relationships.
The Lenten praxis of righting relationships is rooted in the Bible. The Biblical Year of Jubilee which was called every 50 years was essentially about righting relationships. Captives were released. Slaves were set free. Those who had lost property were reinstated. Debts were forgiven. And beyond all these human relationships the relationship between humans and God was righted as well. During the Year of Jubilee God was recognized anew as the creator of the universe from whom all things come and to whom all things belong.
Every Lent is a mini Year of Jubilee and a call to right relationships. We do this through prayer, fasting and giving. And we do this not because we feel guilty or are afraid but rather because we want to do better and we want our world to be better.
During his general audience on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis called on us “to practice pardon, combat poverty and inequality and promote an equitable distribution of the earth’s goods to all.” Our common goal is to “create a society based on equality and solidarity.” In essence, what pope Francis asks us to do; what the Church asks us to do; what the Bible asks us to do; what God asks us to do is to right relationships.
This is not an easy task. The season of Lent and the Year of Mercy offer us the opportunity to make some changes in our lives through prayer, fasting and giving that will right relationships and move us forward in the direction of this Biblical vision of solidarity, equality and peace. Equality can only be reached when we are committed to solidarity. And peace will never be attained unless we have equality.
Is Lent passé? I am sure that it is to some. I am also sure that to others it is nothing more than a cultural expression of a gone-by era. For true believers it is an exquisite opportunity to right relationships with God and with one another by advancing solidarity, equality and peace through prayer, fasting and sharing.
May this Lent be blessed for all of us.
The first two Sundays of Lent relate the story of the temptation of Jesus and his transfiguration. The Church has celebrated these two events on the first two Sundays of Lent since the fourth century.
The desert has a starring role in the season of Lent. It is a place of temptation and a place where the people of Israel were both faithful and unfaithful. The desert is a symbol of communion with God. Those who enter into the desert are free of distractions so that they may encounter God without any trappings or worldly possessions. The desert is also a place where they can lose hope and waver in their trust in God. It is a place of real thirst and hunger for God.
Each of the three temptations begins with the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” The devil is very manipulative using this statement with Jesus. He is egging Jesus on, or so it seems. How many times have you been baited to cross the line into temptation by someone or something asking you if you are brave enough, or smart enough, or clever enough, or wise enough. It is such a temptation for all of us and speaks about power and control over our lives and others. It also plays into our self-esteem and our love or lack of love for ourselves. If we are not secure that we are the beloved sons and daughters of God and have not come to love ourselves in a healthy way, then we will be swayed by such temptations. But Jesus was so assured of God’s love that he didn’t react to those temptations. He stood his ground knowing that he was God’s Chosen One who has a mission that he would be true to it till the end.
The good news of this desert story is that Jesus was victorious in his struggle with Satan. The Gospel is a reminder to us today that we are all to stand in the struggle against evil with the understanding that because of our faith in Christ, the power of hell will not prevail against us.
The liturgies of Lent prepare us for the renewal of our baptismal promises at Easter and also ask us to reflect on the power of sin in our lives but also the undeniable reality of grace that overcomes sin. Lent is an extended meditation on our need to turn our lives completely over to God, to express sincere sorrow for the sin in our lives and to renew our participation in the Paschal Mystery of Christ.
Another important focus of Lent is mercy. Pope Francis called for a Year of Mercy which began on December 8, 2015. He has been talking about the mercy of God everywhere he goes. He claims that he came up with the idea before he was even pope.
“Humanity needs mercy and compassion. Today we add further to the tragedy by considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven. We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this: we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love, to put you back on your feet,” he states. “We need mercy….God does not want anyone to be lost. His mercy is infinitely greater than our sins, his medicine is infinitely stronger than our illnesses that he has to heal.”
We can all walk into Lent remembering these words and fall into the arms of God who awaits us with infinite love and mercy.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and past it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021416.cfm
This weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of the season of Lent. Each year on the First Sunday of Lent we read one of the Gospel accounts of the temptation of Christ in the desert; and since this year we are in cycle “C” in our three year cycle of readings, we read from the Gospel of Luke.
In our Gospel today we are told that Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the desert for forty day, to be tempted by the devil.” The devil then tempted Jesus to turn stones to bread, to accept worldly power and glory, and to test the Father’s love for him. Interestingly, the devil prefaced two of the temptations with the words: “If you are the Son of God……” We are then told that “When the devil had finished every temptation he departed from him for a time.”
I would note three things in this Gospel. 1. Jesus encountered temptations, just as we do. 2. The temptations that Jesus faced differ from the temptations we face in degree not kind or type. We all face the temptations to take care of our own needs, to trust in our own power, and to wonder about God’s love for us. 3. We are told that the devil departed from Jesus “for a time.” Temptations are not overcome once for all. They continue to reoccur in our lives --- perhaps in different forms or guises, but no less real.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy. In the section we read today, Moses reminded the people how they were to profess their faith in all that God had done for them. They were then to offer “the first fruits of the product of the soil” in thanksgiving to God.
Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. In the section we read today, Paul reminds us that “there is not distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What helps you resist temptation in your life?
- Are there some temptations that reoccur in different guises in your life?
- If, as Paul said, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” why do some people want to limit salvation to a chosen few?