Archives: July 2019

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/080419.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   The Gospel for this Sunday begins with someone asking Jesus to “tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”    Jesus balked at this idea and 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 said 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”?

 

From the Pastor: 
Every five years since my ordination, I’ve taken some time to reflect on and pray about my ministry, and to put my thoughts into writing.  This past June, I celebrated the 40th anniversary of my ordination. Because I have spent the past twelve years as your pastor, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and reflections with you. 
 
As I reflect on the past 40 years, I have to admit there have been both positives and negatives. Fortunately and thankfully, the positives far outweigh the negatives. But I can’t pretend the negatives don’t exist.  They are real; they have had an impact on my ministry; and, to varying degrees and in varying ways, they have caused me concern, frustration and, in some cases, anger. 
 
Five negatives in particular come to mind.  
 
1.  The failure of our church leaders to deal with the inappropriate sexual behavior of priests/bishops, coupled with the inability of our leaders to be financially transparent and accountable.    In regard to the former, we need to acknowledge first and foremost that nothing can excuse the absolute wrongfulness of the acts of these priests/bishops.  There are no excuses to be made for it and no explanations that mitigate it.  That this behavior was covered up or denied and/or is still being hidden is a source of great shame and sorrow.  Worse, though, is the fact that some of the leaders of our church just don’t seem to understand that they need to be transparent, honest, and accountable in regard to this issue. This same is true in regard to financial accountability.  Their lack of understanding and action in these areas is a source of anger and very deep disappointment for me.    
 
2.  Because of the sexual abuse crisis, many people have simply given up on our Church.  During the past several years, numerous people have told me personally, through letters, or through email, that they have reached the tipping point and no longer attend and/or consider themselves part of the Catholic Church.  As one who loves the Church, I find this a source of great pain. While I hope these breaks from the Church are only temporary, I suspect some of them will be permanent.  The loss of such people is a wound from which our Church won’t soon recover. 
 
3.  Studies indicate that the next generations (Gen-Xer’s and Millennials) aren’t making the Catholic Church their home as their parents and grandparents did.  Unless this is only a phase, (and I fear that it isn’t) the younger generations won’t come to know and appreciate the beauty of our faith.  With our sacraments, our rituals, our liturgy, our outreach and service ministries, our emphasis on the scriptures, our rich traditions, our various forms of prayer and spirituality, and the countless numbers of people who have dedicated their lives to witnessing their faith, I think our Church has much to offer.  I am concerned that, without being rooted in the Church, the younger generations won’t understand the ultimate importance and value of God in their lives.  
 
4.  The divisions in our Church.  As a Church, we are a diverse and varied group of people.  I see this as a rich blessing.  Unfortunately, many others do not share this view. It is a source of pain and frustration when Church members with divergent opinions fail to treat one another with respect.   I am amazed at the number of people who think it is acceptable to question the faith of a person with whom they disagree, or worse, to suggest that person should “find another church.” 
 
Five years ago in preparation for The Synod on the Family, Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque asked for input from the people of his Archdiocese.  In reflecting on the input he had received Archbishop Jackels wrote: “The Church is a lot like a family, which is never perfect, often not pretty, sometimes dysfunction and a source of frustration, even the cause of anger.  And yet we still identify with it, claim membership in it, and how dare anyone try and say otherwise.  In the Church family we always hold out hope that other members or things in general will change for the better.  And what “better” means varies from family member to family member.”   
I think Archbishop Jackels really hit the nail on the head with this comment.  As I have said many times previously, I think Church is very much like family.  In my own family, we have managed to cancel out each other’s votes in the last several presidential elections.   And yet we realize that when we come together to share a meal, when we all put our feet under the same table, there is something much bigger holding us together than could ever divide us.   And so it is with Church.  We are indeed a diverse and varied group of people, but when we gather for Eucharist we are one family.   We can never disregard or disdain those with whom we disagree.  All of us need to strive to treat one another with respect and dignity as we try to follow the Lord Jesus.  
 
5.  The times, some of them obvious and public, when I fail to live out the Gospel I preach.  Frankly, there are people I have trouble liking, to say nothing of loving.  Forgiveness is an ongoing (and sometimes losing) battle in my life. Worse, my prayer is sometimes superficial and occasionally even peripheral to my life. On a regular basis, I need to remind myself (and others) that I am struggling to live out the Gospel I preach.  My faith life is a work in progress.  If and when people hear me preach about something I am not living, I hope they understand that, most often, I am preaching to myself before anyone else. 
 
Now, lest the above paint a rather gloomy picture, let me hasten to add that it is not by any means the complete picture.  As I said at the beginning, the positives in my ministry far outweigh the negatives.  And as we read in 1Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”  Thus, having shared some of the negatives, it is only right that I share the reasons for my hope.  
 
1.  The example of Pope Francis.   In many ways, the example of Pope Francis has renewed and energized my ministry.   Now I have to admit that I don’t always agree with Pope Francis. I also have to say that I have found him to be an equal opportunity offender. He says what he thinks/believes regardless of how or whom it might offend. 
 However, his decision at the beginning of his papacy not to live in the papal apartments, his response to people who have written him letters, his public embrace of children and the physically disabled, his washing the feet of men and women (Catholics as well as non-Catholics) his remarks about divorce and remarriage, and his comment: “Who am I to judge?”--- all these things remind us that ours is a Church of charity and mercy, a field hospital open to all.   
 
The words and actions of Pope Francis give me great hope.  The tell me that care and compassion, as well as openness and dialogue, are important concerns for him, and that he will avoid judgment, exclusion, and condemnation. This gives me great hope for our Church. 
 
2.  The strength of people’s faith. People will put up with poor homilies, poor liturgy, poor music (not that this ever happens at The Basilica), and failures in leadership because they realize that God is more important than all these things. At times, our Church is all too human.  When my homily doesn’t quite come together, or when the liturgy is lackluster, or when things extraneous to the liturgy hold sway, it is comforting to know that God is still there and that people realize this. Over the past 40 years, I have grown in my understanding that God’s grace is often recognized and known in spite of, not because of, the earthly vessels in which it is conveyed.
 
3.   People’s commitment to the Church in general and to The Basilica in particular.  To be honest, and as noted above, our Church and our parish have lost members, most recently over the mishandling of sexually inappropriate behavior of priests/bishops. Most people, though, hang in there, even when they disagree with or don’t like something. (This  is not to say that people don’t voice their opinions. I have learned that at The Basilica I seldom need to ask people twice what they think.) But by and large, those who disagree don’t just get up and leave; they remain committed.  I am enormously grateful for this.  We would soon cease to exist if people opted out every time they didn’t like something.  To grow and develop, our Church and our parish need the gifts, talents, and abilities of all its members.  
 
4.  The goodness and the gifts of those with whom I have worked and ministered.  With very rare exceptions, I have been blessed by the staffs with whom I have ministered, the parish leaders with whom I have worked, and the parishioners with whom I have served.  I am continually and happily amazed that they tolerate my idiosyncrasies, overlook my faults, excuse my failings, and forgive my mistakes.   I see God’s hand at work in raising up so many talented people to work in ministry and to assume leadership positions in parishes.  These dedicated people truly reflect the life and vitality of our Church.  For me, they are an ongoing sign that the Spirit of God is present and active and is guiding our Church and our parish into a future full of hope.  
 
5.  Our God is a God of new beginnings and second chances.   I have been reminded of this again and again in the last 40 years. When the way has seemed foreboding and the future uncertain, I have experienced God’s love and grace breaking into my life.  While I would love to schedule such times on a regular basis, they are definitely under God’s control, not mine.  In these special moments of grace, when I catch a glimpse of the awesome mystery of God, I am touched and sustained by God’s grace and love.   I understand what Saint Paul meant in quoting the prophet Isaiah:  “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on people what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor.2.9)  While these moments of grace do not happen nearly as often as I would like, they are the experience that enlivens and sustains my life and my ministry.  Additionally, they remind me that, while some things in our Church need changing, I can’t imagine doing anything other than being a priest.
 
So, with gratitude for the past 40 years and with confidence and trust in the future, I pray that God will continue to abide with me, with our parish, and with our Church, and will lead us all into a future full of hope.    
 
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary
 
August/September 2019 Bulletin
 
 
 
 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072819.cfm    

This weekend we celebrate the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The Gospel for this Sunday comes in three parts.  In the first section, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray just as John taught his disciples.   Jesus responded by giving them the Our Father.   In the second section, Jesus tells the story of a man whose friend comes to him at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread.  The story closes with the words:  “………he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”   The third section of our Gospel contains the familiar words “……….ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”     

Our First reading for this weekend shares a theme with the Gospel.  In it, Abraham intervenes with God over the fate of Sodom.   He asks asking God not to destroy Sodom if God found 50 innocent people.  After God agrees, Abraham persists:  how about five less than fifty, then forty, then thirty, then twenty.  Finally Abraham says: “What if there are at least ten (innocent people) there?”   God responds that:  “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”   

Our Gospel and our first reading both deal with the complex and sometimes difficult issue of petitionary prayer.   On the surface, they seem to suggest that if we just keep badgering God, eventually God will respond to our prayer.   On a deeper level, though, I think these readings invite us to be persistent in prayer in order that we can come to know how and where God is responding to our prayer.   I say this because Jesus does not say:  “Ask and you will receive exactly what you are asking for.”  Nor does he say: “Seek and you will find exactly what you are seeking.”   I am more and more convinced that by being persistent in prayer, we come to understand that God has responded to our prayer, but perhaps in a way we had not anticipated or initially recognized.   

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians.   In it Paul proclaims the power of Christ’s cross.   Christ has obliterated any “bond against us with its legal claims……………..nailing it to the cross.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever felt that your prayers of petition have gone unanswered?
  2. Have you ever seen your prayers of petition answered in a way you hadn’t expected?
  3. What would you say to someone who is struggling with prayers that seemingly go unanswered? 
     

One of my nephews joined a very small non-denominational Christian church on Long Island. While the number of people who attend in person is about two dozen, their on-line following is in the thousands. One of the sermons I heard the leader preach used the Bible to build the case that there is no need for me to care about or address what is happening in our society and world. Indeed, he said, I simply need to care about my own individual salvation. And that salvation would be found between me and God alone.

The clarity and confidence in which he spoke was startling. As he ran through a litany of injustices and tensions in the community, he negated any call to action. They will have their own way to salvation. I will have mine. 

Our Catholic faith directly challenges and contradicts this detached understanding of our role in the world. Jesus teaches, and our Church echoes, the core need to see the other—to help the other—to know the other. To live compassion. 

The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean "to suffer with." In his book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Henri Nouwen suggests that the mystery of God’s love is not that our pain is taken away, but that God first wants to share that pain with us. God chooses to be with us, willing to enter into our problems, confusions, and questions. We, in turn, are asked to do the same.

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts and let go of power. We’re called to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion dares us to cry out with those in misery, and may challenge us to sacrifice personal freedom or even personal safety, in love. 

This is not a faith of isolation. This is a faith of radical relationship. It challenges us to create community that builds faith, hope and love “on earth as it is in heaven.” 
This is a faith that places a primacy on the “common good.” Pope John XXIII states, “The common good embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families, and organizations to achieve complete and effective fulfillment.” (Mater et Magistra, 1961 #74) Indeed, it is our responsibility as Catholic Christians to engage in the public arena to work for the common good. 

It is imperative that no one...indulge in a merely individualistic morality. The best way to fulfill one's obligations of justice and love is to contribute to the common good… and also to promote and help public and private organizations devoted to bettering the conditions of life. (Gaudium et Spes, 1965 #30)

This is our faith. We know this. Yet, we are challenged to examine our hearts and actions: Who are we ignoring? What are we staying silent about? Where are we falling short? Let us commit to a life of prayer—opening our hearts, minds and arms to those most in need. Let us find courage in the Spirit to speak and act boldly about the injustices of our time, and work to create a world of justice and peace. 

For this Sunday’s readings click in the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072119.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   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 had always struggled with this particular Gospel.   Many years ago when I was on retreat, my retreat director asked me to meditate on this passage.  I resisted, but my retreat director insisted.   And so, I took the 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.   This same thing continues to occur 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 extends 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?   

God Never Forgets Us

A few weeks ago I did some much needed grocery shopping on my day off. (My refrigerator and pantry were bearing a strong resemblance to Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.) I stopped at the local CUB store and was surprised at how many people were there in mid-afternoon on a Monday. Pleased that it took me only about 30 minutes to find everything on my list, I approached the checkout lanes. Unfortunately, I was dismayed to see at least three people in each line. I made my best guess at which would be the fastest and for once I was right. The line I picked moved very quickly. When it came my turn to check out, I dutifully pulled out my reusable bags and tried to keep up with the checkout person. Unfortunately, she was much faster than I was, and I only had half my items packed when it was time for me to pay. I took out my wallet with my credit card and went through the usual process. I continued packing but I noticed that the person behind me didn’t have that many items and they were speedily packing them. The person after them started to check out, and it was obvious that my side of the counter was needed for their purchases. I hastily piled my remaining items in my bags, and finished just as their first few items started down the conveyer belt toward the bagging area. Pleased that I hadn’t caused any major disruption, I headed for home.

Unfortunately, when I got home I realized I had left my wallet at the check out counter. I immediately called CUB and asked for customer service. After describing my predicament, the person at custom service told me that indeed my wallet had been turned in. After a big sigh of relief and a quick prayer of thanksgiving, I headed back to the grocery story to pick up my wallet. After waiting my turn I explained that I had called about a lost wallet. The customer service representative asked me to describe it, and after locating it in a box in the safe, said: “Can I see some I.D?” I immediately burst into laughter, since my I.D. was, of course, in my wallet. Since this must have been a standard question, the customer service rep didn’t immediately realize the absurdity of their question. It wasn’t until I suggested that they look at the driver’s license in the wallet to confirm that it was mine, that they finally got it. A slow smile spread across their face as they handed my wallet back to me. 

Over the years, I have known parishioners and friends who have lost their I.D. or had it stolen. Not only is this enormously inconvenient, it can be very frightening and time consuming to try to “recreate” one’s life with a new I.D. and new credit cards. Given this, in my prayer that evening I definitely expanded on my earlier and briefer prayer of thanksgiving. 

Also in my prayer that evening, as I reflected the events of the day, I was reminded how fortunate we are that we never have to worry about losing our identity when it comes to God. In Isaiah 49:15-16 we read: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have carved your name.” The words remind us very forcefully that God knows us through and through, and even if we should forget God, God will never forget us. 

As I closed my prayer that night I was struck once again at how blessed and fortunate we are that God loves us so much that God never forgets us and never needs to ask for our I.D. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071419.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of the Good Samarian.   Now as background to this parable, it is important to note that Jews and Samaritans had no contact with each other and in fact were very  hostile to each other.  What elicited the parable of the Good Samaritan was a question raised by a “scholar of the law” as to what he must do to inherit eternal life.   Jesus responded by asking him:  “What is written in the law?”  The scholar of the law replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”   Jesus told him that he had answered correctly.  We are told, though, that “because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”   In response, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.   

There are at least three things worth noting in this parable.  First, the logical people to help the injured man should have been the priest and the Levite.  We are told, though, that they passed by.  Perhaps the best face we can put on their refusal to help was that they feared the man was dead and if they had come in contact with him it would have rendered them ritually impure.   Second, notice that the Samaritan not only was an unlikely person to offer assistance, but the assistance he offered went above and beyond what anyone would have expected.  Third, note that at the very end of the parable, Jesus asked the scholar of the law “Which of these three………..was neighbor to the victim?”   The man couldn’t even say it was the Samaritan.  Instead he answered: “The one who treated him with mercy.”  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.   In it Moses invited the people to “heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statues……………. for it is already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”  

For our second reading this weekend we switch from the Letter to the Galatians, from which we have been reading the past several weeks, to the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians.  The section we read today is an early Christological hymn.  It begins: “Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Who is your neighbor?
  2. When have you failed to help your neighbor?
  3. What do you think Paul meant when he said that Christ is the image of the invisible God?   

When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Stories of Refugees in America

Photographs by Jim Bowey

Exhibition: June 15 – July 28, 2019

Community Event:  Thursday July 18, 6-8:00 PM

 

 

WHEN HOME WON’T LET YOU STAY

 

“When Home Won’t Let You Stay” is a poignant traveling photography exhibition and community event series about refugees in Minnesota by documentary artist James A. Bowey. It provides a new perspective on the often hidden lives and compelling experiences of refugees in our communities. The number of globally displaced people has risen dramatically in recent years and is expected to continue to rise in response to ongoing conflicts, poverty, and climate change. International and national events have prompted debates in communities across the country about our duty to refugees, our American roots, and national identity. The exhibition consists of contemporary color portraits accompanied by first-person poetic stories that create an empathic experience of the plight and resilience of refugees working to make a new home in this country.

 

COMMUNITY EVENT

 

As part of the exhibition, James Bowey will present a live community event to consider the experiences of refugees, and our responses to the needs of displaced people around the world. Accompanied by live music and narrators from the community, he will present photographs, stories and reflections from “When Home Won’t Let You Stay,” and lead a community conversation about how current refugee policies and attitudes reflect the state of the empathetic imagination in our civic life. This compelling talk explores how we can bear witness in a contentious world, and awaken our imagination to the possibilities of hope, justice and human connection.