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Archives: December 2016
In the Gospels, Jesus always asked interesting questions. Do you also want to leave? (Jn. 6:67) What do you want me to do for you? (Lk.18.41) Do you love me? (Jn.21.17) What are you looking for? (Jn.1:38) Do you not yet understand or comprehend? (Mk.8.18) Do you want to be healed? (Jn.5.6). Now originally, Jesus asked these questions of those individuals who came to him with a concern or question, or who wanted him to do something for them. I believe, though, that these are also questions Jesus asks of all of us who are his followers.
Now the questions Jesus asked are not only very interesting, they are also very important. They are the questions we each need to consider as we seek to follow Jesus. As important as these questions are, though, I think equally important are how we answer them. For our answers remind us that in terms of following Jesus, while we know in broad terms what is required of us i.e. we are called to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, the specifics of how we are called to live this out will vary with each individual.
For example, the question “What do you want me to do for you?” will have a unique answer for each of us. Some people may be looking for guidance, others assurance, others friendship; still others, healing or hope. And, while our answers may change as our life situation changes, the questions don’t.
Being like us in all things but sin, Jesus knew our human needs, wants and longings. And he also knew that ultimately the answer to our deepest needs, wants, and longings—the answer to all our questions is to be found only in God. So Jesus continually asked questions that invited us to look beyond our limited horizon and to recognize and respond to God’s presence and to be open to the grace that God is always offering us.
As I said above, the questions Jesus asked in the Gospels are not only interesting, they are important. They are the questions for each of our lives. They challenge us to go beyond the surface, to dive deep, and to recognize our fundamental and abiding need for God in our lives. More importantly, they invite us to recognize that ultimately it is God and God alone who is the answer to our deepest wants, needs and longings.
As we begin this new year, let us ponder the questions Jesus asks. And more importantly, let us pray that we might be more and more open to realizing that ultimately God is the answer to these and to all our questions.
At the beginning of each New Year, our Pope offers a special message to celebrate the World Day of Peace. Directed to all people and nations of the world, Pope Francis focused his 2017 message on the role of civic and community engagement, Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace.
This message is not limited to those in formal political roles. Rather, we are all invited to make this a way of life. He asks “God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life.”
It is important to clarify that nonviolence does not mean “surrender, lack of involvement and passivity.” Rather, Pope Francis is calling us to “active nonviolence.” This practice of consistent and decisive nonviolence compels us to get together and love one another through direct, bold action. “Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world in interconnected.”
Pope Francis points out that Jesus taught “that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart.” Quoting Benedict XVI, he states, “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and trust alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian Revolution.’”
Pope Francis challenges us. “In the most local and ordinary situations and in the in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, indeed of political life in all its forms.” Let us take up this call and work for peace together.
Janice Andersen, Director of Christian Life
Message from Pope Francis
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010117.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, The Mother of God. Our Gospel reading this Sunday tells the story of the visit of the shepherds to the new born Christ child. We are told that after the shepherds arrived in Bethlehem “they made known the message that had been told them about this child. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” In this, I think Mary provides a good model for us. Clearly she knew that the birth of her Son was the work of God. But at that point she didn’t have a clear understanding of what his birth meant and what his life would entail. She was not angry about this. She did not complain about it. She didn’t worry about it. Instead she took in all the events surrounding his birth and reflected on them in her heart.
As we begin a new year with all its possibilities and uncertainties, I think it would be good for us to follow Mary’s example, to take in all that this new year will hold for us, to reflect on it and pray about it, and to trust that in God’s good time their meaning and purpose will become known to us.
In our first reading this Sunday from the Book of Numbers the Lord tells Moses to teach a blessing to Aaron and his sons that they might bless the Israelites. The blessing is simple, yet eloquent: “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” This prayer of blessing reminds us of God’s graciousness and love, which are poured out on all believers.
Our second reading this weekend is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians. In it Paul reminds the Galatians that because of Jesus Christ we are all children of God. “As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, though God.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Has there been a time when initially you didn’t understand something, but through prayer and reflection came to understand it over time?
- When have you experienced God’s graciousness and love in your life?
- Is it easy to see yourself as a son/daughter of God?
Throughout the coming year The Basilica will be exploring and celebrating Pope Francis’ call for A Revolution of Love and Tenderness.
Learn more by attending an upcoming event and reviewing recent newsletter columns.
In his Apostolic Letter entitled: “Misericordia et Misera” or “Mercy and Misery” or one could say: “mercy meets and heals misery” Pope Francis calls on us to “unleash the creativity of mercy” so as “to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace.”
In response we decided to continue on the path of mercy by initiating a Revolution of Love and Tenderness. Revolutions, peaceful and otherwise have changed the world. Our suffering world is in dire need of a great change. So we propose a peaceful revolution accomplished through love and tenderness, two Christian strengths Pope Francis often links to mercy.
The post-revolutionary world we envision is a world where people respect and honor all life and protect all of creation; where people bridge divides and work toward the common good; where people end all discrimination and accept one another no matter who they are; where people end all speech and acts of hatred and division; and where people have learned how to put the “we” before the “I.”
This is the world God had envisioned, it is the world we envision.
Recent Director’s Columns
Janice Andersen, Director of Christian Life
A Revolution of Love and Tenderness, November 21, 2016
Johan van Parys, Ph.D., Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts
A Revolution of Love and Tenderness, December 7, 2016
I think I have mentioned before, but I really enjoy the Christmas letters that accompany many of the Christmas cards I receive. I realize that sometimes these letters are “over the top” in terms of announcing the accomplishments of various family members during the past year. And occasionally they do cross the line and become more fiction than fact, or worse, more confessional (revealing things that were perhaps better left unsaid) than newsy. Despite these occasional misfires, though, I do love those Christmas letters.
I follow a similar practice with all the Christmas letters I receive. I read them when I first receive them and then a couple weeks after Christmas I go through them again and re-read them. The reason for this is that I have discovered that more often than not, I pick up something the second time around that I failed to notice on my first reading. Sometimes it is a fact I overlooked or a nuance that I failed to notice the first time through. In any case, reading these letters again often yields an insight I missed the first time through.
Just as we discover new things when we re-read Christmas letters, I believe something similar happens when we read the scriptures. Often times when I read a familiar scripture passage, something new will pop out. Sometimes it is a word or phrase that will catch my eye. Sometimes a new insight or a new understanding will present itself. While this doesn’t occur every time I read the scriptures, it happens often enough that I am no longer surprised when it does.
I believe the above is particularly true with the scriptures we read at Christmas. Each time we read those familiar passages they invite us to enter anew into the wonderful mystery of God’s love made visible to us in the birth of Jesus Christ. While we may not remember many—if any—Christmas homilies, I’m willing to bet that we all remember the scripture accounts of Jesus’ birth. When we read or hear those words of scripture we are brought back to the root and core of Christmas. They have the power to speak to the deepest parts of our heart, and remind us that God so loved the world that He gave form and flesh to that love in the infant born in Bethlehem.
The beauty and wonder of scripture is that because it is the inspired word of God, it can speak to us in a way that no other words can. This Christmas, as we hear or read again the story of Jesus’ birth, let us allow those simple words of scripture to speak to our heart and soul. May they help us to remember anew the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love revealed to us in the gift of his son Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. And let us pray that we might always strive to be worthy of such a great gift.
Looking to volunteer this Christmas Eve?
Help to cook and serve lunch on Saturday, Dec 24 to those facing the challenges of hunger at the Catholic Charities Opportunity Center 740 E 17th Street, Minneapolis. 9am-1:00pm. Limited volunteer slots available. Contact Julia to volunteer.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love…Let us love one another.” 1 John 4: 7,8
During Advent, we reflect on and anticipate God’s incredible love for us. God came down to earth. God became human. God lived among us and modeled love each day. We know, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ, that our daily life is not separate from our faith. Our whole life—every thought and action—can manifest love in our world.
During Advent, we are invited to learn and grow in love each and every day. In small and big ways, in everything we do, think or say we are challenged to know and live love. Indeed, we are invited to be part of a revolution of love and tenderness—transforming the world through love.
There are three facets of life to consider as we grow in love. They are all crucial and all connect. Like a ripple effect, they effect one another. We are called to grow in love with a focus on our internal, individual and institutional life.
Internal: What is going on in our heart and mind, as we live each day? Our prayers continually call us to reflect on and become aware of the state of our heart. The psalmist cries out, “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Are there ways we have become consumed with hatred or fear? Have we been hurt and do we seek retribution? Have we become overwhelmed or numb to the suffering in our world? We are invited to bring these to prayer and find healing, comfort and strength. God calls us to renewal and peace. Let us open our hearts to this call.
Individual: The way we interact—person to person— reveals the individual facet of our life. Whatever condition we find in our heart, we are called to reach out and engage with compassion. Seeking spiritual progress, not perfection—and always considering one’s safety and care—our faith challenges us: If we are afraid, can we find a way to be kind? If we find ourselves consumed with hatred, is there a way to be humane? If we are hurt and alienated, can our faith give us strength to find a place to engage? Our actions matter. Jesus reminds us, “All will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35.
Institutional: Our lives don’t end with one-on-one interactions. We are part of systems and organizations. Our lives are shaped by policies and laws. Pope Francis states, “A good Catholic meddles in politics.” In his provocative way, he affirms this “is one of the highest forms of love, because it is in the service of the common good.” We share a responsibility for the way our society is organized. We are challenged to consider ways to impact institutions with love—ensuring all develop to their full potential. Collectively, we must consider how love can influence our family, church, neighborhood, city, country and world. This is not easy work, but it is crucial work.
Together, we can attend to all these facets of our lives. As a community, we sponsor refugee families, accompany the grieving, assist the unemployed, protect the marginalized and serve those in need. Let us share, celebrate and bless our community by our honest struggles for love and peace.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated this year’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a National Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees.
Pray for those who are living in fear and uncertainty, away from their home countries due to violence, famine, oppression, and economic desperation.
Archbishop Hebda’s recent letter states, “We can all make a difference by simply reaching out to those who have come here from another country. Every person has a unique story to tell and the simple acts of welcoming and listening can bring people together.”
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121816.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Our Gospel this Sunday is the story of Joseph learning of Mary’s pregnancy, and how he responded to it. We are told that: “Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through, the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.” We are then told that “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”
I suspect that even though an angel had communicated God’s will to him, that Joseph didn’t completely understand God’s ways and work. This is a wonderful example of what faith is all about. Faith doesn’t necessarily provide understanding. Rather faith helps us realize that even when we don’t understand, that God is with us and for us, and ultimately will bring light out of darkness, good out of evil, and life out of death.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It contains what we Christians believe is a prophecy of Christ’s birth. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
Our second reading this Sunday is the opening verses of the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. Paul says that he was called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God “………. The Gospel about his Son descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Have you ever accepted in faith, something that you didn’t understand?
- How has faith helped you when you have encountered difficulties?
- Have you ever felt yourself set apart or called by God to do something?
Christmas Festival: Angels Hovering Round with the National Lutheran Choir
Tickets 1-800-838-3006 or order online at NLCA.com
Friday, December 9 - 4:30pm - SOLD OUT! "Friend" Vouchers will be honored at the door.
Friday, December 9 - 8pm - ONLINE ticket sales are now closed. Tickets will be available at the Basilica 1 hour prior to the performance. Box office opens at 7pm.
This cherished annual event creates a holy experience for audiences in the awe-inspiring Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis. Kevin Siegfried’s “Angels Hovering Round” provides the theme for this year’s message, inviting the listener to ponder a contemporary understanding of Christ’s birth with the angels’ proclamation to “have no fear.” The story is told though an eclectic array of poetry, exquisite choral music and carols sung by all, painting a tapestry experience which removes one from a sense of time and space.
The National Lutheran Choir, under the direction of Dr. David Cherwien, seeks to strengthen, renew and preserve the heritage of sacred choral music through the highest standards of performance and literature.