Archives: March 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/032716.cfm  

This weekend we celebrate the great Feast of Easter.   Along with Christmas and Pentecost, Easter is one of the three great feasts of our Church year.   There are various readings that are used for Easter.  The readings cited above are those that are used on Easter Sunday morning.   The Gospel is taken from the Gospel of John.    On Saturday night at the Easter Vigil we have a series of readings from the Old Testament that tell the story of our salvation history.  There are also readings that can be used for Masses on Easter Sunday afternoon.   

While the secular world places greater emphasis on Christmas, from our Christmas perspective Easter is the greater feast.   The reason for this is that without Christ’s death and resurrection, his birth would not have the import for us that it does.   Further, it was Christ’s death and resurrection that allowed us to understand and appreciate the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost.    While there are several stories of Christ’s resurrection appearances, it is important to note that there are no witnesses to the actual resurrection itself.   Instead, the resurrection stories tell us what happened after Jesus was raised from the dead and how this impacted the people who experienced the risen Lord, Jesus.  

Our Gospel reading for Mass on Easter morning recounts Mary Magdala’s discovery that the stone had been “removed from the tomb,” and her running to inform Simon Peter and John of this.   Peter and John then discover the empty tomb. 

Our first reading for Mass on Easter morning is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.    It is the account of Peter’s address to the household of Cornelius, a new convert.   In a few brief sentences Peter summarizes Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and the commissioning of his disciples to “preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.”  

Our second reading today is taken from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.  Paul uses the analogy of yeast to remind us that we need to celebrate Easter with the new yeast “of sincerity and truth” and not the old yeast of “malice and wickedness.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Why doesn’t Easter get the notice that Christmas does? 
  2. What is your favorite account of one of Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection?  
  3. Do you have any Easter traditions?   Do they actually relate to the Feast of Easter?   

Nothing jumpstarts my prayer life more than when I encounter an unexpected difficulty. Facing a challenging situation, and realizing I don’t have a quick or easy answer, sends me to my knees faster than a blow to the solar plexus. Now certainly this doesn’t happen often. I don’t like surprises and work hard to avoid them. (I believe “surprise parties” are a preview of what hell is all about.) Occasionally, though—and usually through no fault of my own—I face an unexpected dilemma that throws me for a loop. At these times, my prayer life automatically kicks into high gear, as I storm heaven seeking guidance and support. 

Now the above is not something I am particularly proud of. In fact, I am a little embarrassed to admit it. I probably wouldn’t bring it up at all except that I think it is a trait that is common to most people. In this regard, I suspect most of us pray on a regular basis. (Our prayers may be short or long; they may come from a prayer book, or perhaps they are memorized prayers like the rosary, or they may even be spontaneous and heartfelt. Regardless of how we pray, though, we do pray.) The thing is, though, that while we may pray on a regular basis, there is nothing like a crisis to get us to pray more frequently and more fervently. 

I suspect the reason a crisis motivates our prayer life like nothing else is that when a crisis occurs we become aware, as in few other ways, of our limitations and weaknesses. It is during times of crisis that we have to admit that we aren’t sufficient unto ourselves and that we need God.    

Now while on one level I think most of us would admit that we need God, on another level I suspect that most of us also live as though God were an ancillary and optional part of our lives. Now certainly we acknowledge God’s existence and we do pay heed to God when we pray. But in regard to regularly recognizing and admitting our need for and dependence on God, I’m guessing most of us only do this when we have run out of other options. We are like children who insist that “I can do it myself” only to discover that “doing it ourselves” was more difficult than we thought, or that we can’t do it at all.     

Despite the fact that it is so often difficult for us to admit our need for God, God doesn’t hold this against us. In fact, quite the opposite is true. God is pleased whenever we recognize our need for God and come to God in prayer. God is like a loving parent who doesn’t chide us when our abilities are insufficient and our efforts fail. Rather when this happens and we come running to God for help and comfort, we discover that God has always been there, waiting for us with outstretched arms and all the grace that we need. 

Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion inaugurates Holy Week. This is the time Christians remember and celebrate the mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. At the heart of this celebration and commemoration stands the cross. This cross is laden with pain, humiliation, death but it is also crowned with salvation, resurrection and joy.

Unless we just go through these days moved only by the skin-deep experience of sadness and joy without allowing it to touch us deeply, we cannot but ask the question as to the reason for the cross. Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?

In a valiant attempt to make this mystery easily accessible, the answer has been made quite simple: “Jesus died for our sins.” If so, what does that mean? Did he die as a result of our sins? Did he die to atone for our sins? Did he die in order for us to rise above our sins? Did he die in order for us to move beyond our sins? And whose sins are we talking about? Do we mean the sins of our ancestors; our very own sins; or maybe even sins yet to be committed? A complete answer includes all of the above and much more. There is however another approach to this mystery. This approach suggests that the death of Jesus was the ultimate expression of God’s unconditional love for all of us as Jesus gave his life for the salvation of the world. We are the recipients of this unconditional love. In turn, we are called to love unconditionally. Once we have reached this level of love, then all sinfulness will be banned from the earth and the promise will be fulfilled.

Our Christian history has emphasized our human sinfulness and unworthiness. I remember a Good Friday homily in the early 1970ies during which the priest told us that we were nothing but “rats in the gutters of life, unworthy of God’s love”. We have a proven history of making sure that people are aware of their sinfulness and their unworthiness. There seems to be a resurgence of this with many believers pointing out sin in society and in people’s life. “Thank God I am not one of them.” We tend to feel good about ourselves as we define ourselves relative to the perceived graver sins of others. And as we enter into this game we often look at the part, rather than at the whole, a praxis which applies to much of our lives. We fail to see the moral forest in favor of one sinful tree. We love to position ourselves as protectors of the Gospel values up and against public sinners. If I recall, Jesus has a few choice words for us: “You who are without sin cast the first stone.” And further: “I will not condemn you either. Go home and sin no more.”

 All of us have closets filled with skeletons…skeletons of hatred, jealousy, envy, pride, self-righteousness… Holy week is a good time to open our closets and deal with those skeletons, our own skeletons. Change will only happen when we concern ourselves with our own skeletons. This is not an easy exercise. It is much easier to find fault with others. Can you imagine how wonderful the world would be if all of us spent as much time cleaning our own spiritual house as we spend on finding fault with others? May Holy Week 2016 be a time of remembrance, celebration and spiritual renewal for all of us.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it in your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032016.cfm   

This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday.    In addition to the usual three readings, we also have a Gospel reading that is used at the beginning of Mass.  This reading records Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem just prior to his passion, and it introduces the procession with palms. 

Each year on Palm Sunday we read one of the accounts of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross.  This year we read from the Gospel of Luke.  While each of the four evangelists tells the story of the passion and death of Jesus, they each approach it from their own unique perspective.  In this regard, Luke is not as sparse in detail as Mark.  At the same time, in Luke’s account of the passion, Jesus is not as regal or as “in charge” as he is in John’s account.   From Luke’s perspective, Jesus willingly accepts his suffering and death as the fulfillment of God’s plan.   

While we are all familiar with the story of Jesus’ passion, reading (or hearing) it in its entirety can help us appreciate anew --- and hopefully at a deeper level --- the suffering Jesus’ endured for our sake.  

The first and second readings for Palm Sunday remain the same every year.   The first reading is taken from that part of Isaiah known as the “songs of the suffering servant.”   From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have seen these songs as referring to Christ, the suffering servant par excellence.  

The second reading for Palm Sunday is taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  It is in the form of a hymn and it speaks of Jesus’ journey from heaven to earth and back to heaven.  Its simple eloquence reminds us that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” for us.   And because of this, “every knee shall bend in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord………..”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:    

  1. As you read the passion, what moment stands out for you?
  2. The “cross” has been a Christian symbol for centuries.  Yet, in recent years especially, it has become more decoration/ornamentation than a symbol of one’s faith.  Why do you think this is?
  3. In the second reading, Paul speaks of Jesus’ emptying himself for our sake.  Have you ever emptied yourself for another?     

Rehearsals for The Basilica Children's Choir and Cherubs Choir are cancelled for tonight, March 9. For more information, please contact your individual choir director.

Not singing in one of our choirs but would like to join? Click here to learn more!

 

Sandwiches and shoes; these two things are often associated with The Basilica’s St. Vincent de Paul ministries.  And indeed, these are two important aspects of our daily outreach that meet the immediate needs of those struggling in our community. A donation of $1.00 to our St. Vincent de Paul pays for a sandwich and a cup of coffee handed out at the rectory door to someone that might otherwise go without a meal.

I know this comparison is probably overused but as someone that indulges in her fair share of lattes, $1.00 for a sandwich and a cup of coffee is pretty powerful when you consider that it is difficult to leave Starbucks without spending at least $5.00.  

And if sandwiches and shoes were all that St. Vincent de Paul did, it would be an inspiring program. But what continues to amaze me about this ministry is that it is so much more than sandwiches and shoes. Not only is St. Vincent de Paul providing emergency assistance, it is building bridges, providing dignified support to our brothers and sisters in need, and creating a common good.  

This past year the St. Vincent de Paul mentoring program had 21 mentors that provided more than 800 hours of 1-on-1 mentoring to students at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). This partnership helps students who struggle with homelessness by expanding networks for career development, improving opportunities for success, and providing scholarships upon completion of the program.  

This past month a refugee family arrived in Minneapolis. St. Vincent de Paul is providing safe housing and everyday supplies for a family of six, as they emigrate from a refugee camp in Kenya. 

This past week, and almost every week, StreetSong-MN, a choir comprised of people currently or formerly homeless and those who care about them, come together to unite voices and create community.

And every so often I am reminded first hand of the power St. Vincent de Paul has when someone comes to the Cowley Center looking for an ID or bus voucher. I can see the relief in their eyes that the answer is not “no we can’t help,” but simply they have arrived at the wrong building.  

These are just a few ways that St. Vincent de Paul responded to more than 30,000 of our brothers and sisters in need in 2015.

This Lent, we ask you to consider a pledge to support our life-changing St. Vincent de Paul ministries. One hundred percent of your donation goes directly to support those in need.  

Together, we can work to change the culture of poverty in our community. Please consider filling out a St. Vincent de Paul pledge form and mailing it in, dropping it in the collection basket, or you can also pledge online at mary.org/donate

Click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser for this Sunday’s readings: https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031316-fifth-sunday-lent.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of the Season of Lent.   Our Gospel this weekend is taken from the Gospel of John and is the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery.   

There are at least five things that deserve comment in regard to this Gospel.   First, notice that the scene takes place early in the morning.  This suggests that someone didn’t just happen upon a late night rendezvous, but rather a trap had been laid for the woman.  This is supported by the custom of the time which required the witness of two or more men to accuse someone of wrongdoing.  Obviously, catching the woman in adultery had been prearranged.  Second, the last I heard, adultery required two people.  Where is the woman’s companion?    Third, there has been much speculation about what Jesus wrote when he bent down and wrote on the ground.  The fact is, however, that we simply don’t know.   Fourth, notice that the crowd begins to disperse “beginning with the elders.”   This suggests that wisdom often --- but certainly not always --- comes with age.  Finally, notice that Jesus doesn’t excuse or minimize what the woman did.  Rather, he did not condemn her.  This is significant.  It reminds us that judgment belongs to God alone.  

The point of this Gospel is clear.  All of us are sinners.   All of us stand in need of God’s mercy.  No one of can stand in judgment of another.   Judgment is God’s business, and God doesn’t need our help.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It was a powerful reminder to the Israelites --- and us --- that God has not been present and active only in the past, but that this is still true today.  “see, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”   

Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians.  In it, Paul exults in the life in Christ that has been given him. “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. The woman in this weekend’s Gospel experienced the grace filled mercy of God.  When have you experienced this in your life?
  2. When have you failed to show mercy to another and instead have stood in judgment of them?
  3. When and how have you found God doing “something new” in your life?  

In December 2015, The Basilica community whole-heartedly agreed to co-sponsor a refugee family with Lutheran Social Services (LSS). In preparation for their arrival, we held a second collection to gather funds needed for housing and other basic needs. We developed a team of dedicated, talented, and compassionate volunteers to organize the efforts and work with the family. We worked with LSS to set up their apartment and collected various household items to make their transition as easy as possible.

The Family Has Arrived!
On February 21, 2016, a group of Basilica parishioners were excited to gather at the airport to welcome the refugee family to Minnesota. Prepared with welcome signs, U.S. and Somali flags, new winter coats and gloves, and open hearts, Basilica parishioners greeted the family and began a journey of support and solidarity.

The family is originally from Somalia. Two parents, two teenage daughters and two sons in their early 20s arrived on February 21. Several older children immigrated separately a few years ago.

After two days of settling in, The Basilica mentoring team joined LSS in a meeting with the family. They began to share stories with one another and build relationships. Through a translator, one of the young men said he knew this transition would be a very difficult move, and he didn’t know if they would be able to make it. However, after meeting the people here to help them, he knows it will work. It was a humbling and sacred meeting.

The Basilica team began to learn how to help the family in their transition. All of their goals involve education and work. The family is deeply grateful for the opportunity to be in Minnesota and said they are committed to “Doing their very best.” 

Basilica volunteers are excited to work with LSS to help them reach their goals. We invite our whole community to hold the family in prayer over the months ahead.

The Family’s Journey
During the violent civil war and famine in Somalia, this family left their homeland in 1992 and settled into the newly established Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya. The United Nations set up Dadaab in one of the harshest terrains in the Kenyan desert in 1991, housing 90,000 refugees escaping Somalia’s civil war. Today, Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world, home to close to 500,000 people. 

The children in the family that arrived in Minnesota on February 21 were born in the Dadaab Refugee camp. Even with lives beginning and ending, Dadaab remains purely temporary living. No permanent features of community life can officially be established: housing, employment, schooling, or commerce. While canvas tents are provided by the United Nations, they deteriorate in the sun after several years. Houses are then fortified with twigs and occasional tin roofs. Most homes stand less than six feet tall. While people are protected from civil war, security requires little opportunity to leave the camp. To learn more about the refugee camp, visit dadaabstories.org.

Several years ago, after living in the Dadaab Refugee Camp over twenty years, the family was transferred to the Kakuma Refugee Camp to prepare to immigrate to the United States. They have been awaiting the transition for a long time. They arrived tired, yet glad to be in the United States.  

How to Get Involved:
During this Year of Mercy, there are many ways to get involved in this ministry. There are several committees established to coordinate these opportunities:

  • Mentoring Team: to work closely with the family
  • Collections: opportunities to collect and package supplies for refugee families
  • Education and advocacy: to provide forums to learn more about refugees and immigration
  • Communication: to share information with The Basilica community throughout this partnership

LSS will resettle about 625 individuals in the Metro and St. Cloud areas in 2016.  Because they arrive in the U.S. with few belongings, there is an immediate need to provide them with basic personal and household items. In the coming months, we will organize several events to give our Basilica community an opportunity to collect and package the most-needed items.  

On a Sunday afternoon in early April, The Basilica and Masjid An-Nur will co-sponsor an event on Islamophobia in our community. Our speaker will be Dr. Todd Green, author of the book The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West and Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. This is a timely and important discussion for our community. 

The Basilica is already making plans to sponsor another family later in the Spring. 

According to the United Nations, there are currently 43 million uprooted victims of conflict and persecution worldwide. Rooted in love and faith, The Basilica community is committed to a compassionate response in whatever ways possible. Look for upcoming announcements about how you can help this effort!

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