Archives: April 2019

God's Forgiveness

A few weeks ago in a conversation with a friend, I suddenly realized that without intending it, I had said something that bothered, and in fact, had hurt my friend. Now saying something hurtful certainly wasn’t my intention. In fact, quite the opposite, I was trying to be witty. Thus, when I realized that what I had said had been hurtful, I began to explain what I meant, and why I had said what I did. As the explanatory words tumbled out of my mouth, it dawned on me that I was doing the same thing that increasing numbers of people seem to be doing; I wasn’t apologizing, I was explaining. When I realized what I was doing, I immediately shifted gears and offered an apology for my intemperate words. I then asked my friend to “call me out” in the future, if and when, I explained rather than apologized. He promised he would, and we moved on to other things.

From my perspective, explaining why we said or did something, rather than apologizing for it seems to be a growing phenomenon. People will send snarky emails, say nasty things, or do things that are discourteous or just plain rude, and when they realize they acted intemperately, they will tell you why they said or did it, rather than apologizing for it The thing is, though, that while at times it can be helpful to know someone’s motivations and intentions for their words and actions, this doesn’t change the fact that someone may have been hurt by them. In these situations, an apology, not an explanation, is what is needed. And apologies start with the words: “I am sorry.” 

In regard to the above, however, we need to be brutally honest. In some cases, even the words: “I am sorry” are insufficient. These times occur when we have knowingly and intentionally hurt someone, or when we have become aware that the hurt caused by what we said or did ran deeper than we thought. At these times, a simple “I’m sorry” is not enough. We need to go to a deeper level. We need to ask the tough question. “Will you forgive me?” When we say “I’m sorry,” we are still in charge and in control. When we ask: “Will you forgive me?” We are ceding that control to another person, and asking them to give us what we cannot give ourselves: reconciliation and peace. 

The above is a good example of what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we come to God with our sins and failings, and tell God of our sorrow for the things we have done wrong. We also ask, though, for God’s forgiveness. In asking for this forgiveness, however, we need never fear that God’s forgiveness is in doubt. The forgiveness of our sins is offered to us freely, and generously, without limitations or end. God loves us. And because God loves us, God cannot not forgive our sins. 

When we ask for God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can trust and believe that because of God’s love and in God’s mercy, our sins—whatever they may be—are forgiven. And in asking for the forgiveness of our sins, we know and believe that we will receive in return what we cannot give ourselves: God’s pardon and peace.  

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/050519.cfm           

In our Gospel this Sunday we read of a resurrection appearance by Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias.  We are told that Simon Peter and the other disciples had gone fishing, “but that night they caught nothing.  When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.”    He asked them if they had caught anything and when they said they hadn’t, he told them: “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”   When they were not able to pull the net in because of the number of fish, the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter: “It is the Lord.”   Peter than jumped into the water and swam to shore.  When the other disciples arrived, Jesus fed them with bread and fish.  He then asked Simon Peter three different times:  “Do you love me?”   

Over the years, many explanations have been offered as to why Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him.  Some suggest that it was because Peter had denied Jesus three times.  Others suggest that Jesus wanted Peter to understand not just the importance of the question, but the importance of his answer.   I would like to suggest, though, that perhaps the most important thing about this exchange is that it was only after Peter had declared his love that Jesus gave him a mission:  “Feed/tend my sheep/lambs.”  For Peter, as for us, the things we do in the name of Jesus should come out of our love for Jesus.     

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles.   In it the disciples are brought before the Sanhedrin because in defiance of their orders, they continued to preach about Jesus.  “But Peter and the apostles said in reply, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’”  

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Book of Revelation.   The style of writing in this book is known as apocalyptic literature.  Often it was written during a time of trial/persecution, and it was intended to offer hope and encouragement.  It is not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, it uses vivid imagery and symbolic language to convey the idea that despite the difficulties of the present, God is ultimately in charge.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever thought God was calling you to do something?   Did you respond to that call out of love for Jesus? 
  2. Have you ever experienced a conflict between obeying God versus men?  
  3. There seems to be a fascination in regard to apocalyptic literature.  Why do you think this is?   

Divine Mercy Sunday vespers will be devoted to the people of Sri Lanka. Please join us in prayer for the victims and for an end to violence. A book will be available for parishioners to share prayers that will be sent to the Cardinal of Sri Lanka.

April 28, 3:00pm 
Basilica Choir Stalls

 

 

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

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042819.cfm

 

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter, which is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  Although our first and second readings for this Sunday follow our three year cycle of readings, the Gospel for this Sunday is always Jn. 20: 19-31.   It is the story of Thomas. 

 

I have always felt a great deal of sympathy for poor Thomas.   He didn’t believe the other disciples when they told him that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had appeared to them.  As a result, forever after he was known as “doubting Thomas.”   Now I don’t know that I can completely restore Thomas’ credibility, but I’d like to offer two thoughts in his defense.   First, it seems to me that the other disciples couldn’t have been very effective witnesses if they couldn’t convince Thomas that they had encountered the risen Lord.  Certainly the idea of someone rising from the dead was an unprecedented phenomenon, but the disciples couldn’t have been very persuasive if they couldn’t convince Thomas --- a man who had been in their company for three years --- that Jesus had been raised from the dead.   Second, I don’t know that doubt is such a bad thing.   Doubt and faith are two sides of the same coin.   You can’t have doubt if you don’t have (at least some) faith.   In fact, out of Thomas’ doubt came the first statement of Easter faith:  “My Lord and my God.” 

 

Our first reading today is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It recounts the beginnings of the apostles’ ministry, which was a continuation of Jesus’ mission and ministry.  In this reading we are told “Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women were added to them.” 

 

Our second reading today is taken from the Book of Revelation.   We will be reading from this book for the next five weeks.  It is important to remember that the Book of Revelation is “apocalyptic” literature.  It is not meant to be taken literally.  Rather, apocalyptic literature is filled with vivid imagery and symbolic language.   It was written during a time of trial or distress and it was meant to encourage and offer hope in the face of trials and suffering.  It also reminded people to remain firm in their faith.  

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

1.   Do you think doubt is a bad thing?

2.   Have you ever tried to convince someone of something only to have them doubt you?  Did they ever come to believe you? 

3.  If you encountered someone who read the Book of Revelation literally, what would you say to them?  

A few weeks ago Johan van Parys, our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, wrote an excellent column for this space articulating why he is staying in the Catholic Church. His words prompted me to reflect on why I to stay in our Church, especially in light of the fact that many people have left or are at least taking a break from our church.

In most cases the reason people have left, or are taking a break from our Church, has to do with the handling of the clergy sexual abuse crisis by the leaders of our Church. Over the past many years, hundreds, if not thousands, of priests have engaged in the sexual abuse of children or vulnerable adults. Others have sexually exploited or harassed adults. Worse, many bishops and others in leadership positions covered up this behavior or turned a blind eye to it. Worse still, it has come to light that some bishops have also engaged in this kind of behavior. Worst of all, though, is that now that the actions of these bishops have come to light, the leadership of our Church still hasn’t developed a comprehensive plan to respond to the sexually inappropriate behavior of their fellow bishops. 

Until and unless the leaders of our Church acknowledge their failures, and put forth a concrete, specific plan for their future accountability, our Church will continue to be embroiled in the sexual abuse crisis, and people will continue to leave our Church in frustration and anger. People have been deeply wounded by individuals they have trusted. In many cases, those in positions of authority allowed this to happen. These same leaders must now commit themselves publicly to openness, transparency, and honesty. This is called accountability. People should not only expect it; they should demand it. 

Despite the failures of many in leadership positions in our Church, however, and despite the fact that many people have left our Church, I chose to remain. While the reasons I stay are many and varied, there are two primary reasons. 

I stay in the Church because I need the Eucharist. As Catholics we believe that in the Eucharist we celebrate and share, that Jesus Christ is really and truly present—not present just in memory, not present just symbolically, and not present just spiritually, but really and truly present. We offer no proof for this. There is no logical or rational explanation for it. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a matter of faith. And it is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist that I hunger for and that sustains and nourishes me in my life. As I tell the children at First Eucharist every year: I know that I am not the best person in the world. I am a sinner. But I would be far worse without the Eucharist. The Eucharist makes me be a better person than I would otherwise be. I cannot do without it, and I cannot accept a substitute for it. 

The second reason I stay in the Church is that I need a community of faith that both supports and challenges me. I believe we do this especially well at The Basilica. Here at The Basilica we welcome all those who come through our doors. Not only do we strive to see the face of Christ in one another, but we also strive to be the face of Christ for each other. While some would seek to limit the embrace of our Church, I believe that the embrace of our Church can be nothing less than the embrace of God’s love. 

In his message at the beginning of Lent a few years ago Pope Francis wrote: “Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.” I believe these words describe well what the church, as a community of faith, is all about. These words are an important and necessary challenge to parishes everywhere. They remind us that parishes can never be self-referential or concerned only with their own self interest. The Church needs to be a community of faith that supports and challenges its members. The Church needs to be a community of faith where people are welcomed and accepted. The Catholic Church—and particularly The Basilica—does this better than any church I know. I need this in my life. 

And so because I need the Eucharist and because I need a community that supports and challenges me, I stay in the Catholic Church. 

In this space several months ago I quoted a line from the late comedian Phyllis Diller, who famously said: “Don’t go to bed angry…Stay up and fight.” I believe this is good advice for Catholics today. And so, on this Easter Sunday, I say to all those who may read this: Don’t leave our Church angry. Stay and fight for a Church that is open, honest, and transparent. Stay and fight for leadership that is accountable and responsible. Stay and fight so that you can be the Church that you want the Church to be. Stay—and celebrate the Eucharist and be a part of a community that supports and challenges all of us. 

The Basilica of Saint Mary welcomes all to celebrate Holy Week and Easter, April 18 through April 21, 2019. The vibrant beauty and tradition at The Basilica will draw over 10,000 people for these sacred celebrations.

The most important days of Holy week, known as the Sacred Triduum, begin with Holy Thursday on April 18, and continue with Good Friday, April 19, Holy Saturday, April 20, and Easter Sunday, April 21.

“The Basilica is honored to welcome parishioners and visitors to celebrate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” said Dr. Johan van Parys, director of liturgy and sacred arts at The Basilica.

 

Reveiw full schedule www.mary.org/holyweek

 

 

The Basilica of Saint Mary stands in prayer and support with the Notre Dame Cathedral community and the city of Paris. We pray for the safety of the first responders working to manage the fire.

During this Holy week, Catholics around the world are saddened by the destruction of the iconic cathedral. The loss of precious relics, irreplaceable art, striking architecture, rich history and culture, are simply devastating. 

We invite our community to join us in prayer and to share a message to the people of Paris. A book of messages will be placed on the Altar of the Sacred Heart in The Basilica. This book will be sent to the Archbishop of Paris.

Tuesday, April 16 - Noon Mass
Saint Joseph Chapel, Basilica Ground Level 
Mass followed by a rosary to Our Lady of Paris

 

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042119.cfm 

The readings listed above are those that will be used on Easter Sunday morning at the Basilica.  There are different readings for the Mass of the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, and a different Gospel for Easter Sunday afternoon.   

The Gospel for Easter Sunday is John’s account of Mary of Magdala’s finding of the empty tomb.  We are told that she “came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.”   Peter and John then both ran to the tomb.  John arrived first, but perhaps out of deference to Peter, did not go in.  He merely “bent down and saw the burial cloths there.”   When Peter arrived he went into the tomb and “saw the burial clothes there.” John also went in and we are told that “he saw and believed.”   We don’t know exactly John what believed because the last line of the Gospel is enigmatic: “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”   It is easy for us from our vantage point 20 centuries later to wonder why Peter and (perhaps) John didn’t immediately understand the resurrection.  We need to remember, though, that Jesus’ resurrection was entirely new, clearly extraordinary, certainly beyond understanding, and something that has never occurred since.   

In our second reading today, St. Paul urges us to “Think of what is above, not of what is on the earth.”  

Our first reading today is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  It is part of a speech by Peter to the Gentiles.  In a few brief words Peter summarizes Jesus’ ministry and then reminds people that “This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What stands out for you from the various Services of Holy Week?
  2. Is there a sentence from the Easter Gospel that has special meaning for you? 
  3. Peter speaks of being a witness to the risen Lord.  How do you give witness to the risen Lord Jesus in your life?  

     

As we celebrate the entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, we are given an incredible opportunity over the next seven days, the holiest week of our liturgical year—an opportunity to live our faith through Jesus and to reflect on what Jesus’ journey means to us. 

We immerse ourselves into the Passion of our Lord. Hearing the Passion each year on Palm Sunday reminds us of Jesus’ tremendous love for us. We wave palms on this day in remembrance of Jesus riding into Jerusalem to embrace whatever was to come. We leave today’s Mass with these palms that we will keep with us in our homes over the next year as a reminder of this sacred celebration and what it means to us as Catholics.

As we journey through Holy Week, we begin the Triduum on Holy Thursday. On this night we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and are invited to wash one another’s feet. The act of washing one another’s feet is a reminder that to follow in Christ’s footsteps means to serve one another. It is in serving one another that we further immerse ourselves into the Paschal Mystery of our faith.

On Good Friday, we are invited to commemorate the suffering of Jesus, followed by his crucifixion. The Basilica celebrates three services on Good Friday—Stations of the Cross at noon, a Communion Service and celebration of the Lord’s Passion in the afternoon, followed by the Tenebrae service in the evening. These services are filled with many multi-sensory symbols that bring the story of Jesus’s passion and death to the forefront in the history of our faith.

Holy Saturday marks the Easter Vigil which is the greatest feast in our Church. We celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection. This Mass begins with the Easter fire outside the church, around which all are invited to gather and celebrate the new Easter Light. As the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) Elect and Candidates receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist as a part of the Easter Vigil, we remember our own beginnings in the faith and celebrate that new life has come again into our community.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate! We celebrate that Jesus has risen from the dead. We celebrate our salvation, our joy and our faith. We celebrate with friends and family. We celebrate all that is good in our world. We celebrate the joy in our own lives. And our celebrations last during the entire Easter season.

This Holy Week, may you participate fully and experience all that is Holy Week in our Catholic faith. May our faith deepen and may we be filled with joy as we celebrate together our risen Christ this Easter. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
 
 
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.  This Gospel is read at the beginning of Mass and 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 according to 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?