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Archives: August 2017
The column below was submitted as a letter to the editor for the Catholic Spirit. It was written in response to two letters to the editor that appeared in the August 10 edition of the Catholic Spirit.
I hate waiting in lines. Unless there is just a single line for people who want to check in/out; get gas; pay for their groceries, or whatever, I always choose the wrong line. I inevitably end up behind someone who is sure they have the exact change—if only they can find it; or someone who can’t find their credit card; or someone who doesn’t quite understand why they can’t use a coupon that expired three weeks ago.
Given my abhorrence to waiting in lines, you can perhaps appreciate how surprised I was to read the letters to the editor in the August 10th Catholic Spirit. (The newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.) The issue they were writing about concerned an Illinois Bishop’s decision to prohibit Catholics in same-sex marriages from receiving communion or having their funeral in a Catholic Church. One of the writers was clear that God “does not have a place in heaven for those who decide his rules are outdated and don’t fit the current whims of individuals.” Another suggested that: “Those who claim they are loving others by allowing forbidden practices may just be loving them into hell.” As I read these comments I couldn’t help but think that these writers had found a way to expedite the judgement line at the end of world.
This is pure genius. I am surprised that no one thought of this before. By narrowing down the issues that Jesus articulated in Matthew 25:31-46 to a single question: “Did you question/wonder about/believe in same sex marriage?”—in effect, by doing some pre-judging in this world—it will save God time at the end of the world. In fact, the line at the judgement at the end of the world should move along quite swiftly. We won’t have to worry about whether or not we fed the hungry; gave drink to the thirsty; welcomed the stranger; clothed the naked; comforted the ill; or visited the imprisoned. Of course, though, if we narrow down the criteria for judgement to a single issue/question, it does make it difficult to explain why Jesus told that parable in the first place.
We need to be clear. The idea that we can save God time at the end of the world by doing some pre-judging here is complete nonsense. God searches our hearts, our minds, and our souls; and God—and God alone—is the only One who is qualified to do any judging. And while I can’t say for sure, I suspect God is not all that appreciative of those who think it is right and proper to save time at the end of the world by doing some pre-judging here.
As for me, I am grateful that judgement belongs to God alone, and that it is something God doesn’t need any help with—however well intended. I am also hopeful that at the end of the world God will grade on a curve. I say this because the older I get, the more I realize how much in need of God’s mercy I am.
For the readings for this Sunday click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090317.cfm
“No crown without a cross.” A former parishioner used these words whenever she encountered a difficulty in her life. It was her way of saying that life wasn’t always going to be easy, but by staying true to Christ, she believed that heaven would await her. In our Gospel for this weekend, Jesus told his disciples that “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Peter responded: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Jesus, though, reminded Peter that “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Jesus then went on to tell his disciples that “Whoever wished to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” No one could accuse Jesus of false advertizing. He is clear. The cross --- in one form or another --- is a part of the life of every Christian.
Our First reading this weekend shares the theme of the Gospel. In it Jeremiah, the prophet, laments that he has been “duped” by the Lord. Because he has prophesied in the name of the Lord, he is mocked and the object of laughter. He vows: “I will not mention him, I will speak his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” Clearly being a prophet has caused Jeremiah pain and ridicule --- this is his cross --- but he cannot turn away from his prophetic calling. Instead he submits to the will of God knowing that ultimately God will vindicate him.
In our second reading this weekend from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, Paul urges the people: “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of god, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What cross(es) have you been called to carry?
- What has helped you to carry your cross(es)?
- Like Jeremiah, have you ever felt that you have been “duped” by God?
Every year The Basilica community comes together to celebrate and connect at the Fall Festival (formerly known as the Parish Picnic). This is a large event and it takes a dedicated team of volunteers to plan and organize all the activities. Recently Jenessa, a member of this team, connected with our Gifts Leadership Team to share her story on why she chooses to share her time and talent with us:
“I started volunteering at The Basilica about a year ago. I began by helping out with Basilica Young Adults (BYA) sandwich making and later joined the Basilica Block Party Planning Committee, then the Fall Festival Committee. When I moved to Minneapolis a year ago, everything was new. I was in a new city, a new job, and a new church. The community at The Basilica is why I became a member of the church.
I volunteer because I believe that I am actively working toward maintaining and improving the community that I fell in love with when I moved here. My hope is that I, along with others who serve, can continue to spread the love of Christ and welcome people from all walks of life into our community. I quickly learned that volunteering at The Basilica is whatever you want it to be. As someone who often travels for work, I was worried about making commitments that I wouldn’t be able to keep. Everyone has his or her own reservations about volunteering, but because there are many different volunteer opportunities, with various levels of commitment you can work around your schedule and your needs.”
We invite you to celebrate The Basilica community with us next Sunday, September 10 during our Fall Festival—outside on the West Lawn following the 9:30am, 11:30am, and 4:30pm Masses.
“Come and see!” These three words convey feelings of happiness, joy, wonder, and delight. They are a call to see a litter of squirming puppies, a brightly-lit Christmas tree, a giggling baby taking her first steps.
In the Gospel of John, the woman at the well enthusiastically cried to all who would hear her: “Come and see!” Her joy and delight following her encounter with Jesus are contagious as we read her story. Just like those who heard the woman’s call, you, too, are invited to “Come and see!”
Have you ever wondered what the Catholic Church is all about? Are you an adult who would like to join the Catholic Church? Were you raised in the Catholic Church but for any number of reasons never followed through on confirmation as a child? Then “Come and see!” Through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA, anyone—the curious, the spiritual seeker, or those wanting to be received into the Church through baptism and/or confirmation—may encounter a place to find answers to their questions. No question is too simple, silly, complex, or controversial. Everyone is welcome. RCIA members come from all faiths and backgrounds—churched and unchurched, believers and non-believers. RCIA is a place where questions and doubts are encouraged, and there is never any obligation to join the Catholic Church. The environment is warm and encouraging, with no judgment or criticism. Many find they make new and long-lasting friendships during this time.
RCIA begins with a Period of Inquiry with an overview of the Scriptures and basic Christian teachings. One weekend is devoted to a relaxing and rejuvenating retreat where everyone has a chance to get to know one another better, building relationships over good times and even better meals. This section ends with the beautiful Rite of Welcome into the Church for those who desire it. This rite is a simple yet eloquent enactment of the Church’s welcoming nature for anyone wishing to step inside its doors.
Next comes the Period of the Catechumenate, where the sessions go deeper into Catholic teaching, the Sacraments, and encounter the character of Christ through both class sessions and the Breaking Open the Word for the catechumens (unbaptized) during Mass. During the Breaking Open the Word, anyone not yet baptized gathers to discuss each Sunday’s Gospel readings on an intimate level, building even closer and sweeter relationships with Christ and one another.
That is followed by Lent and the Period of Purification where we more deeply encounter the person and character of Christ through the Gospels. Finally, with the Triduum, all the drama and passion of the three days leading to Easter is stunningly portrayed, culminating in baptism and/or confirmation of those who desire it. But there is never any pressure to take this step. The RCIA team recognizes that the decision to do so is deeply personal and is a call from God, and anyone who chooses not to do so is never shamed or questioned.
Finally, the RCIA year ends with the Period of Mystagogia where everyone gathers to reflect on the year and are offered ways to match their time and talent to become more deeply involved with the Basilica. A delicious pot luck caps off the year where everyone is encouraged to bring their favorite dish to share.
If you or anyone you know would be interested in attending RCIA during the coming year, ask them to “come and see” if this is for them. Contact me the parish office to learn more. Sessions begin on Tuesday, September 12.
For this Sundays readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082717.cfm
I would guess that at some point in each of our lives, someone has asked us for our “honest” opinion about something. What would you do, if you were me? Do you think I’m wrong? What’s the worst that could happen? Something akin to this happened in our Gospel for this weekend. In that Gospel Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of May is?" His disciples must have been proud to be able to fill in him on the local gossip: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus, though, wasn’t satisfied with knowing what others thought of him. His next question was: “But who do you say that I am?” In reply Simon Peter said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then told Peter: “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
Jesus was clear with his disciples. He didn’t want them simply to know about him. He wanted his disciples to know him. This same thing is true for us. Jesus wants us to know him, not just to know about him. And the way we come to know Jesus is by spending time with him in prayer.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. In the passage we read this weekend, “Shebna, master of the palace,” is demoted for something he had done, and in his place Eliakim is promoted: “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder.” The emphasis in this passage is that, just as Peter was proclaimed “rock,” so too it is by God’s authority that Eliakim is given a position of responsibility and authority.
Again this weekend, our second reading is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. In it Paul reminds us: "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Who do you say that Jesus is?
- The giving of keys was mentioned in both the First Reading today and the Gospel. I suspect this was a sign of authority. Has anyone ever entrusted you with their keys? How did you feel about that?
- More often than I care to admit I have discovered anew that God’s judgments are inscrutable and God’s ways unsearchable. Has this also happened to you?
STATEMENT REGARDING RECENT ACTS OF TERRORISM AND VIOLENCE
From Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Bishop Andrew Cozzens
DATE: August 18, 2017
The recent violent attacks in Charlottesville and Barcelona, as well as the bombing at a Bloomington Mosque earlier this month, have forced all of us to confront the existence of evil in this world. We join men and women of good will around our Archdiocese and around the globe who condemn all senseless violence and expressions of hatred. While we cannot know or judge what is in the heart of another, we know that we need to confront any evidence that racism and hateful prejudice reside in our hearts. The temptation to hopelessness is all too real, but we know that we have in Christ the answer to despair.
Pope Francis reminds us: “The Christian’s real force is the force of truth and of love, which involves renouncing all forms of violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! Instead, faith and strength go together. Christians are not violent; they are strong. And with what kind of strength? That of meekness, the strength of meekness, the strength of love.”
We must be people of encounter who look for opportunities to engage others in ways that acknowledge the dignity of each human person. Living in such a diverse community, the possibilities are real and endless. We need to be witnesses of peace, hope, kindness and charity, which should begin in our homes, neighborhoods and parishes.
Let us acknowledge and promote the power of prayer. We ask the faithful of this Archdiocese and our neighbors of good will to join us in praying for those who have been killed and injured, as well as for all who have experienced the scourge of racism and discrimination. The Mass for Reconciliation (#16 in the Roman Missal) and the Mass in Time of War or Civil Disturbance (#31) would both be appropriate for parishes to celebrate in the days to come. Let us pray for peace, patience and solidarity in our community and among all peoples.
Director of Communications
Every year in August and September, we focus on Stewardship of Gifts at The Basilica—a time to reflect on our God given gifts and talents and how we can share them with our communities. This year we have asked volunteers from a variety of ministries to share their stories with you. Today’s story comes from Chris who has volunteered with a variety of ministries for several years. Most recently she has been an integral part of the Immigrant Support Ministry and with her husband, has been part of the planning committee for our second annual School Supply Drive for the Ascension Catholic School in Minneapolis. Committee members from this ministry will be available today during our Basilica Day celebration on the West Lawn following morning masses.
Chris says, “I choose to volunteer at The Basilica because of the wide variety of opportunities I have been invited to be a part of that present me with the opportunity to manifest Christ’s calling to “Love One Another.” As part of my work on behalf of The Basilica, I have met many wonderful people and connected with other groups of faith and non faith-based organizations who share a genuine, compassionate, selfless desire to be of service to others.
“One of my most recent and memorable experiences was last spring when I participated with a group from the Immigration Advocacy Committee to work with Immigrants at a shelter supported by the Sisters of Loreto in El Paso, TX. There were many moments that took my breath away, when every day the face of Christ was so visible in mothers, fathers, children of every age, and volunteers, and we heard stories of great courage, hardship, strength, kindness, unfailing faith, and trust in strangers. It is not possible to experience this and not be changed and challenged to do more.
“I encourage all Basilica parishioners to check out the volunteer opportunities that may involve a brief time commitment.”
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082017.cfm
Our Gospel this weekend presents us with what --- at least initially --- looks like an unflattering picture of Jesus. We are told that a Canaanite woman came to Jesus and called out: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” We are told, though, that Jesus “did not say a word in answer to her.” Jesus’ disciples want him to send her away. Jesus told them, though: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman “came and did Jesus homage, saying Lord, help me.” Jesus tried to brush her off with the rather abrupt response that: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” In reply the woman said: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus responded to her by telling her: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
What are we to make of this strange conversation? First, it must be noted that historically Jews had little to do with Canaanites. Jesus’ response, then, would have been in line with the spirit of the times. Second, while eventually Jesus commissioned and sent his disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations, initially he thought their mission should begin with the Jews. Thirdly, though, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus, as he does elsewhere in the Gospels, responded to the woman’s obvious faith. It is the woman’s faith that is the most important element in this Gospel.
Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It shares the theme of the Gospel. In it Isaiah prophesizes: “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord ………. All who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer………. for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.
In this section, Paul, while identifying himself as the “apostle to the Gentiles,” also preaches to his fellow Jews and reminds them that “the gifts and call of God are irrevocable.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When you have prayed about something, have you ever felt that initially your prayer was rebuffed?
- Has your faith ever drawn you to deeper prayer?
- If God wants God’s house to be a house of prayer for all peoples, why do some want to limit access?
She was one of my favorite aunts: intelligent, beautiful, and accomplished. When she walked into a room everyone took note of her. The final two years of her life she lived with dementia. I remember my last visit with her very well. I went to her room in my hometown’s memory care center, knocked on the door, and entered. There she sat, by the window. She was beautifully dressed. Her hair was lovely and she even wore a little make-up. With her elegant hands she pointed at a chair and invited me to sit down.
She told me about her parents and her siblings. When she spoke about her favorite niece Jeanette, I mentioned that I was Jeanette’s son, Johan. “That is not possible,” she said as “Johan lives in the United States. He is some kind of a priest” she continued. “He is a very nice boy. Every time he comes to Belgium on holiday he visits me.” After that definitive statement she continued to talk about her past.
When I was ready to leave I asked if I could give her a kiss. She agreed. As I leaned down to embrace her she whispered: “and to think I did not recognize you.” We hugged and cried. By the time I put on my coat she had returned to the world of her past, unaware of the present.
“To think I did not recognize you.”
This phrase came to mind when I read today’s Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33). The apostles had been with Jesus for a while. Yet in this passage they do not recognize him. Granted, he came to them during the night, walking on water. So, they thought him a ghost.
But when he spoke to them they recognized his voice. Peter, the most impulsive of them all, jumped out of the boat and started walking toward Jesus. Yet, as soon as he realized he was walking on water, which is a physical impossibility he started to sink.
There are different levels of recognition. My aunt recognized me as a nice person but not as her nephew, until she did. The apostles first thought Jesus a ghost, then they recognized him as Jesus, but not as who he truly was, the Son of God.
Jesus comes to us even today. Sometimes we recognize him, most often we don’t because he comes to us in disguise. How can we recognize him? By looking with God’s eyes, for God sees past any disguise and recognizes Christ in each one of us.
God regards us with mercy, love, and tenderness. When we do the same then we will see as God sees and recognize Christ in one another. Sometimes this is easy. Most often, it is not. And it can prove to be particularly difficult when Christ comes to us as a person who is homeless, who is an immigrant, who is different from us in terms of race or religion. And yet, it is only when we recognize Christ in those who are most different from us that we will truly know Christ.
It is our hope that at the end of time when we see Christ face to face we will not have to say: “to think I did not recognize you.”
- In the Gospel and in the first reading for this weekend God is found in unexpected places. Where have you found God’s unexpected presence in your life?
- Has there been a time when you were afraid or fearful, and then suddenly realized God’s presence?
- Paul lamented that some people had refused to accept the Gospel. What would you say to someone who had rejected the Gospel?