Archives: July 2016

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 

This Sunday we celebrate the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.    Our Gospel and our first reading this Sunday focus on the need for preparedness.   In the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that they are to be “like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.”     Those who are prepared will be well rewarded for their master will “gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.”    While this last sentence clearly is an exaggeration, the point is important.   Those who are prepared for the master’s coming will be rewarded.  While it would be nice to know the precise day and hour when the master will return, this information is not and will not be available to us.   So instead of wasting our time and efforts trying to determine when the end will come and the master will appear, it is far preferable simply to be prepared.   This doesn’t mean that we have to be “spiritual insomniacs.”   Rather we are called to live our lives in such a way that we will be ready whenever the master comes.   

Our first reading this Sunday shares the theme of preparedness --- not for the master’s coming, but for the Passover --- when the Jews were led out of Egypt.   The opening sentence of this reading, though, seems to suggest that this night was known beforehand: “The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers, that with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage.”   This sentence is not meant to suggest that they knew the exact date, rather that they were sure of their eventual deliverance.   

The opening sentence of our second reading this Sunday is one of my favorite scripture quotes.  “Brothers and Sisters: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seem.”   This is an eloquent description of faith, and a reminder that faith is about things beyond our senses and outside of our logic and rational explanations.   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How does one be prepared for the master’s coming?
  2. How would you describe faith?
  3. When have you “known” something by faith?  

Several difficult days have turned into months. Many of us are confused and discouraged with the recent tragic events that have taken so many lives. It has frightened and divided our society. How does anyone react to fear? None of us does very well. I have noticed that when I am fearful, I react strongly to my environment simply because I am afraid of the unknown and of the future. Maybe some of us have the same common reaction. That is what I see happening in our world today. 

The divisions seem most evident on social media. There is a wide range of opinions. In the beginning, I read viewpoints on different sides and all I came away with was more confusion, so I stopped. I have settled with the thought that with any situation there are true and false statements on every side.

As Christians we have to ask ourselves, have I treated each person I meet with love and care as God’s creation? Have I been able to search for Christ’s face in each one? I know that for me this has not always been the case. There are many excuses that get in the way. I am sure everyone has made excuses for how you have treated others at some point. You see, the excuses do not matter. What matters most is the compassion and love we extend to others. 

In the gospel, Jesus loved to challenge those who were self-righteous, those who felt that they were right and everyone else was wrong. Why did he do that? I think it was because those who are self-righteous are the most difficult to reach and at times, that is you and me. When we get stuck on our side and we become close-minded and think that everyone else is wrong, we become self-righteous. Jesus is asking us to be open-minded and open-hearted and open to thoughts that differ from our own. Jesus is asking us to stay in the conversation and listen deeply to one another and put ourselves in each other’s shoes. Jesus is asking the most difficult of us to reach out in love to everyone around us and embrace each other in love, care, and dignity.

There is a beautiful quote by Glennon Doyle Melton about Mother Teresa, And when she wanted to see the face of God, she didn’t look up or away; she looked into the eyes of the person sitting next to her. Which is harder, and better. What the gospel proclaims is hard, but better. I never thought that it was easy to be a Christian. I have always struggled with being a good one. But if I am to take seriously my vow to live the gospel SEEING THE FACE OF GOD everyday, then I must do this. I must succeed in seeing the face of God in the person next to me.

I end with this quote from N. Wright from Following Jesus, We don’t need Christians who project their own insecurities out on to the world and call it preaching the gospel. We need Christians who will do for the world what Jesus was doing. The Church must be prepared to stand between the warring factions, and, like a boxing referee, risk being knocked out by both simultaneously. The Church must be prepared to act symbolically, like Jesus, to show that there is a different way of living. The Church must be prepared to be the agent of healing.Taking up the cross is not a merely passive operation. It comes about as the Church attempts, in the power of the Spirit, to be for the world what Jesus was for the world announcing the kingdom, healing the wounds of the world.

During these difficult times in our world today, let us bring before God every face, every person we encounter, here and across the globe, every day. Ask God to show His face to us in and through these special gifts in our lives. Let us pray for each other and our world as we go forward.

The Refugee Olympic Team

While many Americans will be cheering for the team in red, white, and blue during the Olympics in Rio, another team deserves your support. Ten athletes, who are also refugees, will be competing under the banner of the Refugee Olympic Team, the first of its kind in any Olympic competition. The team was formed to shed light on the worldwide refugee crisis.

Check out the athletes’ stories here:

Those 10 athletes are from Syria, South Sudan, and the Republic of Congo. The team will march in with the Olympic flag just before the host nation of Brazil during the opening ceremony. The athletes were identified and selected with the help of National Olympic Committee around the globe.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) hopes these athletes will inspire those in dire situations across the globe.

“This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.

While it’s easy to be patriotic during an event like the Olympics, it’s just as important to remember those who aren’t able to represent their home countries. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste in into your browser.

Our Gospel this Sunday begins with someone asking Jesus: “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”    Jesus replied:  “Friend who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”    Initially this response may seem harsh, but from the parable Jesus told next, it could be argued that Jesus was inviting the individual to approach the disputed inheritance in a different way.   That parable is the story of a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.   “He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’  And he said, ‘This is what I shall do; I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now, as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’  But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you, and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’”   

The problem with the man in this parable was not his wealth (he was already rich before his bountiful harvest); rather the problem was that his wealth was his sole source of security.   He thought of nothing and no one else --- not even God.   At times we too can make this same mistake when we look to things other than God to be our ultimate security.  

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes.   This weekend is the only time in our three year cycle of Sunday readings when we read from the Book of Ecclesiastes.  This reading shares the theme of the Gospel reminding us that “All things are vanity!”   While this message sounds distressing, it is meant to remind us that striving to amass material wealth is futile and pointless. 

In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians.  In it Paul reminds us that because we have put on Christ, we are to “think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Has there been a time when you have put your trust in something other than God?
  2. My grandfather once told me that when he was young he felt safe and secure when he had $200 in savings.   When the depression came he had to look to something else to provide that sense of safety and security.   He found this in the church.   Has there been a time when what you thought would provide safety and security failed to do so?
  3. I find it hard to keep focused on “what is above.”  What helps you to keep focused on “what is above”?

“Hello.  How are you?”  Such a simple and common phrase in the English language.  However, for non-native English speakers, learning such a simple phrase can take hours of practice.  This was the case for the mother in our first refugee family who spoke no English when she arrived in Minnesota.  During the past few months, she has worked hard to adjust to life in the United States and learn English among many other things.  It has been an exciting and busy time for her family and we are grateful that the Basilica was able to walk alongside them on this part of their journey.

Our first refugee family arrived in Minnesota in February 2016.  Of Somalian descent, the family had previously lived in Kenya in both the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps over the course of the past twenty three years.  The family consists of mother, father and four children--two sons in their twenties and two daughters in their teens.  The parents also have four older children who came to the United States as refugees in previous years and now reside in the Faribault and St. Paul areas of Minnesota.  Since arriving in the United States, the family has been busy adjusting to life in America including, learning to ride the bus, learning how to buy groceries in our large supermarkets, learning to read, write and speak English, adjusting to the Minnesota winter and learning what sidewalks are and how to navigate safely with so many cars around.  The teenage girls have been busy going to school, learning to use a computer, and spending time at the local library.  The sons were also busy looking for work and both found jobs at the Minneapolis St. Paul airport working in the food services area.  They were also able to attend English as a second language classes and met some young people at a local park with whom they could play soccer.

Helping the family along their journey here in Minnesota has been Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and the Basilica’s mentor team.  The mentor team for our first family was made up of four parishioners, Donna Krisch, Dawn Pajunen-Ibes, Alison Rudy and Dorene Wernke.  Working closely with Lutheran Social Services, the mentor team helped our family by taking them grocery shopping, driving the family to doctor appointments, helping them prepare for job searches, and helping them practice their English skills.  They also took the family on fun outings such as a trip to the Como zoo and to parks to watch soccer games.  The mentor team built an amazing relationship with the family over the past few months and the family has reached out regularly for assistance with various items.   If you ask any of our mentors however, they will be the first to tell you that they feel they are really the ones benefiting from this relationship.  The mentors continually say how much they have grown and learned from our family and how deeply meaningful and spiritually nourishing the relationship has been for them.

With many thanks to our mentor team and Lutheran Social Services, our family is well on their way to settling into life in America.  In June 2016, the family received wonderful news that they were able to obtain housing in Faribault, Minnesota and were able to move closer to their three older sons who live in the area.   The family continues to stay in touch with the mentor team and the mentor team is planning a trip to visit the family in their new home soon.

We would like to thank our family mentors, the refugee committee, Lutheran Social Services and the entire Basilica community for their help in co-sponsoring our first refugee family.  This was an amazing experience and we look forward to welcoming our second family in the weeks ahead.


For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.

Our Gospel this Sunday comes in three sections.  In the first section, Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them how to pray.  In response, Jesus taught them the Our Father.   In the second section Jesus tells the parable about a person who wakes up their neighbor at midnight to ask him to loan him three loaves of bread because an unexpected visitor had arrived at their home.  Jesus concludes the parable by saying:  “If he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”   The third section of the Gospel begins with what seems like an outrageous promise.  “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”   The Gospel concludes with Jesus’ words:  “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”   

What are we to make of this Gospel?   Well, I think there are three important things this Gospel tells us.   1. God is so close to us that we can call on God as “Father.”  (Incidentally, this word is not meant to convey gender, but intimacy of relationship.)   2.  Notice that Jesus does not say “ask and you will receive exactly what you asked for.”  Rather he merely says “ask and you will receive.” We need to be  open to how God responds to our prayers.  3.  While God will not always give us what we want, God will always give us what we need.   

In our first reading this Sunday Abraham seems to be negotiating with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Eventually God tells Abraham that if there are at least ten innocent people in Sodom and Gomorrah, God will not destroy the city.   While this story seems to be saying that we can “negotiate” with God, I think its real message is how very patient God is with us in our sinfulness.   

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians.   In the section we read today Paul reminds us of God’s loving forgiveness.   “And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever prayed for something only to discover that your prayers were answered in a way you hadn’t expected?  
  2. Being persistent in prayer is important, not because it sometimes takes us a while to get God’s attention, or to change God’s mind, but rather because sometimes it takes us a while to recognize how God is responding or has responded to our prayer.   When has your persistence in prayer been helpful for you? 
  3. Has your prayer ever helped you to experience God’s forgiveness?   

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary.   We are told that Martha was busy with the details of hospitality, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus.   Martha came to Jesus and said:  “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”   In reply, Jesus said to her:  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.   Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”    

Since I identify much more with Martha than Mary, I have always struggled with this particular Gospel.  That is why many years ago when I was on retreat, and my retreat director asked me to meditate on this passage,  I resisted.   My retreat director, however, was insistent. And so, I took this passage to prayer and in my prayer it suddenly occurred to me that from my perspective three words were missing from Jesus’ response:   “at this moment.”   I inserted these three words after “There is need only of one thing, at this moment…………”   Mary had realized that at that moment the important thing was attend to the Lord.   Martha, rightly concerned about hospitality, had allowed that concern to become dominant, and as a result she missed the opportunity to attend to the Lord.   I believe something similar occurs in each of our lives.  We can become so focused on something --- sometimes things that are good and important --- that we can fail to be conscious of and attend to God.   The challenge for us is recognize the moments of God’s presence when they occur, and then, like Mary, to attend to them. 

In our first reading this Sunday Abraham extended hospitality to three visitors who were passing by.   At some point, Abraham recognized that God was one of his visitors.  As a result, as often happens after a divine visitation, there is an announcement: “One of them said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.’”   Abraham’s generous hospitality had resulted in the announcement that in her old age, Sarah would have a son.  

In our second reading this Sunday, Paul wrote from prison to the Colossians.   Paul is clear that even in our suffering Christ is “the hope for glory.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Can you think of a time when you have been so preoccupied that you almost missed a moment of God’s presence?  
  2. Has there been a time when in extending hospitality you have felt the presence of God?
  3. In times of pain or suffering have you ever found hope in Christ?  

About a month ago, a group of Basilica Young Adults got together and packaged toiletry kits for incoming refugee families.  Coming with only a suitcase, these toiletry kits provide toothbrushes, soap, and shampoo – things most of us take for granted every day.  Every refugee that comes to Minnesota through Lutheran Social Services receives one of these kits.  By the end, we’d packaged 40 kits for incoming refugee families to use in the months to come. 

A week after this event, I came across one of my favorite childhood books, Rachel’s RainbowWhile some of the appeal of this book was more than likely that the protagonist shared a name with me, the story is a wonderful one, too.  It tells of a young girl who has never seen a real rainbow. After packing a peanut butter sandwich (my favorite too!), she heads out on an adventure to find a rainbow.  As she walks, she passes by a tree filled with bright red apples, climbs the tree, and adds a ruby red apple to her basket.  As she continues on her journey, she finds an orange maple leaf gently gliding down from a tree, which she adds to her basket as well.  As the day continues, she collects more and more objects, all the while continuing to hunt for a rainbow.  She eventually heads home, disappointed.  However, she later realizes that she already has a rainbow in her basket, a rainbow of colorful objects that God has made. 

As I was reflecting on this packaging event, I was trying to figure out what about it was so powerful.  I was searching for that “rainbow” event.  However, I realized that there often is no “rainbow” moment where God’s presence pierces through the sky into our hearts.  More often, God is revealed piece by piece. 

As Dawn, a member of the family mentor team, talked about her experiences with the family the Basilica has sponsored, I could see God’s love and care in her tearful eyes.  As Cate, our wonderful representative from LSS, talked about Minnesotan refugees, I could feel God’s passion in her words and deep knowledge.  As I listened to other young adults ask probing questions and give up a Saturday morning (harder to do than you’d think for us young adults), I felt surrounded by God. 

I feel so much gratitude for the experiences this co-sponsorship has allowed me to have.  I am becoming more and more convinced that it is not Minnesota’s refugees that are most impacted by the work of this wonderful community, but me.  I am the one experiencing God’s love – piece by piece – through this wonderful ministry.  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 

Our Gospel this Sunday contains the well known story of the Good Samaritan.   Jesus told this story in response to a “scholar of the law” who approached Jesus wanting to know what he must do to inherit eternal life.   Jesus asked the scholar what was written in the law and he replied:  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”  We are told that Jesus approved this answer, but then the scholar of the law asked a follow up question:  “And who is my neighbor.”   In response, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.  

There are three things to note in this story.  First, there was a great deal of antipathy between Jews and Samaritans.   The Samaritans were those Jews who stayed in Israel during the Babylonian captivity.   The Jews thought the Samaritans had polluted the Jewish religion.  The Samaritans believed something similar about the Jews.  The two groups hated each other and had nothing to do with one another.    Second, it is possible that the priest and the Levite passed by the man because they thought he might be dead.  Contact with a dead person would have rendered them ritually impure and unable to fulfill their temple obligations.   Third, notice that the scholar of the law couldn’t even use the word Samaritan to name the man who had helped the victim of robbers.  Instead when Jesus asked him who of the three was neighbor to the robbers’ victim he replied:  “The one who treated him with mercy.”    

It is easy for all of us to find excuses for not extending a helping hand to those in need.  Jesus is clear, though, that our “neighbor” is anyone who is in need.     

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.  In it Moses tells the people that the commandments and statues of the law are not “too mysterious and remote for you.  It is not up in the sky ………. Nor is it across the sea………. No, it is something very near to you already in your mouths and in your hearts.”    

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians.   In it Paul reminded the people of the preeminent and unique role of Jesus.   “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation.  For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things were created through him and for him.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Who has been “neighbor” to you?
2.  To whom are you being called to be “neighbor?” 
3.  What excuses do you make for not being “neighbor?”