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Archives: January 2023
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
Wednesday, February 1
Thursday, February 2
Friday, February 3
Thank you to our panel of experts and participants today for joining in this important conversation to address mental illness and public safety. John Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, said, this is a human rights issue for our community. Find the full conversation and action steps in the video.
The weekend was embraced by death. Funerals on both Friday and Monday focused my faith and expanded my sense of hope. Amid tears of grief emerged smiles of joy, creating a contradictory emotional experience. But such is the nature of human life, which is often filled with paradoxes defying easy explanation. Crying and laughing in the same situation might provide a paradoxical truth allowing for some sense of stability in the midst of the polarities of sorrow and joy. It was Dr. Seuss, the quirky children’s author, who was quoted as saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” In both funerals tears freely intermingled with smiles and the shadows of incongruity soon melted into a resolution of appreciation for the life of the dead persons. No doubt about it, everyone present seemed most appreciative that the lives of these two women had happened.
Both Barbara, age 64, and Pearl, age 93 were childless, but both of the funerals were filled with children by extension. Generations of nieces and nephews reminisced with tears of joy and sorrow along with other relatives and friends. Both Barbara and Pearl were compassionate, intelligent, and spunky women who provided open hearths and homes to countless relatives and friends. Lovers of knowledge, puzzles and card games both women had ready answers and advice for those who asked. Both loved to laugh but did not suffer fools easily. Barbara found comfort in her left-brain by solving impossible puzzles and knowing all the answers on Jeopardy. She was skeptical of simplistic theologies. Pearl was a shrewd card shark, a connoisseur of White Castles and loved to crochet animals to give away to children. Both of their lives brought tears with their deaths, but also smiles because their lives had been so intimately shared with others. At Barbara’s funeral I shared a snippet of a poem by Maya Angelou who had said, “I’d call a place pure paradise where families are loyal, and strangers are nice.” At Pearl’s funeral, I quoted e.e. cummings’ insight into aging, “Life, who never grows old, is always beautiful and that nobody beautiful ever hurries.” Young or old, neither Barbara nor Pearl seemed to be in hurry and clearly found life, even in final illnesses, to be beautiful.
Searching for the extraordinary gift of life, even in the face of death, becomes a challenge for all of us. In between the two funerals, The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time came and went offering consolation and fear to millions of Christians who attended mass and listened to Jesus once again warn us, “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” How many times have we heard this phrase and actually believed it? Welcomed into the Kingdom, both Barbara and Pearl can easily believe Jesus’ invitation to rest in peace. But on-going questions remains for all of us who seek a place in this Kingdom: “How do we prepare ourselves to take seriously this admonition? Just how many funerals do we have to attend to understand that Kingdom of God is really at hand?”
As one friend of mine was fond of saying, “No one gets out of this life alive.” Admittedly he was a funeral director and had a lot to gain in death, but his insight remains true. While we do not know the day or the hour of our own entrance into the Kingdom, Jesus does provide us with some workable criteria for organizing our lives and preparing us for the Kingdom. The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time lays the requirements on the line and, once again, Jesus becomes our teacher and guide.
Describing in very concrete images how the Kingdom will be ours, Jesus portrays the life of a disciple by accentuating the “happy qualities” acceptable to God: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteous; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure of heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake; and blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you on my account.” These nine blessings are concluded with the promise, “Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in the Kingdom of heaven.” Jesus counsels his disciples that this reward in heaven is the direct result of their willingness to develop attitudes reflective of these nine blessings and to put them into action despite persecution. It is the faith of the individual that preserves a lasting relationship with God, but it is in the cultivation of an attitude of beatitudes where the teachings of Jesus become identifiable marks of those who will enter the Kingdom of God.
The longer version of the Beatitudes (The Sermon on the Mount) is found in the gospel of Matthew (5:1-12) and is a call to communal happiness. By becoming proactive in guarding against those conditions that threaten the blessedness of the community, Jesus uses the third person (“Blessed/happy are those who”) to illustrate that His teachings are for the whole community and must reflect a willingness to live the beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” becomes an invitation to challenge greed and the hoarding of resources creating pathetic poverty situations resulting from perceived scarcity. “Blessed are they who mourn” becomes an invitation to comfort those overwhelmed by grief, assuring them of the Kingdom to come and the security of the community. “Blessed are the merciful” reflects a willingness to turn the other cheek, to love one’s enemies and to forgive. “Blessed are the peacemakers” credits a life of non-violence in the face of war. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” demands an insistence upon justice in a world filled with indifference, inequity and lawlessness. “Blessed are the pure of heart” implies an intolerance of the exploitation of the traditional “widows and orphans” of our times, providing safety nets for those who are vulnerable. And “Blessed are the meek” demands that disciples of Jesus renounce the corrupting need for personal power and self-aggrandizement.
Seeking a hope filled future is not opting for a premature place in the Kingdom of God; rather, living the Beatitudes must generate an attitude of working tirelessly for the Kingdom of God on this earth. Transforming our Church, society, communities and our world begins with the transformation of us. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” does demand perseverance and patience on our part, even in the face of great danger. Discovering happiness is not an illusion nor found only in a distant Kingdom. Rather the real challenge of the Sermon on the Mount is to take seriously what Jesus said and to bring this Good News down from the mountain into the world in which we live.
In a world in which happiness is within our grasp, blessed are those who take seriously the Beatitudes of Jesus. As the family and friends of Barbara and Pearl gathered, I could only hope, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they would be comforted.” Believing in the words of Jesus allows us to cry in the midst of our grief, as well to smile because we know what has been promised to those who have worked diligently in the Kingdom at hand and truly believed in the Kingdom to come.
Peace, Fr. Joe Gillespie, O.P.
Insights from the Downtown Clergy Civil Rights Pilgrimage
The week of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I traveled with 10 faith leaders of Minneapolis on a civil rights pilgrimage to Georgia and Alabama. Our pilgrimage took us from Atlanta, where we attended the Dr. King commemoration, to Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery, and back to Atlanta. I use the word pilgrimage intentionally as this was a sacred journey made in faith. Personally, this was one of the most moving, sobering, and inspiring journeys I have made in my life. I don’t want to speak for my fellow clergy, but given our collective debrief Thursday, this journey was deeply impactful for all – with a range of emotions expressed by our group.
Prisoners or Patients: Smarter Ways to Address Mental Illness and Public Safety
January 28, 1:00pm
Join us for a discussion with Twin Cities leaders about working toward positive outcomes, improving public safety, and cutting the cost of incarceration for people with mental health issues. Please register.
Parish Listening Sessions: Voices of the Parish
Fr. Daniel Griffith and members of the Parish Council want to hear what is on your mind and in your heart regarding The Basilica and the broader Catholic Church. Please register.
January 29, 1:00pm, following 11:30am Mass
January 31, 5:30-7:00pm – Zoom Session
February 11, 9:00-10:30am
February 12, 11:00am, following 9:30am Mass
Catholic Social Teaching Lenten Series: Unlocking our Best Kept Secret
Sundays in Lent, February 26-March 26, 10:45am
Following 9:30am Mass
Fr. Daniel Griffith and other excellent local speakers including Dr. Amy Levad and Fr. Chris Collins, SJ, from the Univeristy of St. Thomas, will help us delve deeper into various aspects of the Church's Social Teaching. Please register.
All Mass recordings can be found at Mass Recordings.
Discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary: the call to discipleship
Fr. Joseph Gillespie, O.P.
It is time to re-imagine the significance of our personal call to perfection. Indeed, I suspect there is little hope for any of us if we cannot rise above the seductive call to soft-mindedness and half-truths that so easily overshadow us. Abdicating our legacy of discipleship for the pursuit of personal pleasure and economic disparity is analogous to thinking that the Titanic simply stopped in the middle of the Atlantic to take on ice. The sinking feeling that surrounds a church or nation that blinds itself to the reality of its own narcissistic agenda will easily sink to the depths of depravity and indifference.
This past Monday, January 16, 2023, our Nation celebrated the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. In his call for economic justice, King launched a prophetic vision of democracy that would attempt to unshackle our country from the fetters of denial and prejudicial thinking. Many conservative thinkers and moderate civil rights leaders claimed that King was over his head and leading the country into anarchy and chaos. Pledging to never use violence, King remained a man of his word when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Just a year before his assassination, King had strongly voiced his opposition to the war in Vietnam. In so many ways the war had come home to America and, for many, Martin Luther King, Jr. would become its first political victim. Echoes of the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered on August 23, 1963, during the March on Washington would play out more as a nightmare in cities across America.
Indeed, Americans still live in a world where new wars and flagrant manifestations of greed trump peace and economic justice. Many Americans continue to moan and groan as they search for some glimmer of hope amid a dysfunctional society characterized by subtle racial, gender, economic prejudices, and partisan politics.
While the musical strains of “We Shall Overcome” continue to echo hope, the legacy of King will find success in the willingness of new disciples who will continue to rage against racial injustices, economic disparity, gender discrimination, fake news, nuclear saber rattling and unjust warfare.
The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is a call to discipleship and to hope. The gospel of Matthew (4:12-23) proclaims the universality of the Good News and sets the scene for launching Jesus’ public ministry. Echoing the fulfillment of what had been spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah (9:1-4); Jesus would become the light amid darkness: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shone.”
The interplay of the metaphors of light and darkness would find their greatest manifestation in the Gospel of John, but the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy regarding light and darkness finds its way into all four gospels. Searching for light at the end of the tunnel and hoping it is not a runaway train, we can confidently assume that the metaphor of light dispels the fear of darkness and radiates the ministry of Jesus. Along with the persevering theme of Dr. King’s anthem, “We Shall Overcome,” we might offer a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine” as a backdrop for Jesus’ ministry!
The public ministry of Jesus would begin with the proclamation: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” The simplicity of purpose becomes clearer when Jesus calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things: “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” Responding to the call of Jesus, Peter, Andrew, John and James immediately left their nets and boats and followed Jesus. No doubt, much to the chagrin and protests of their families, these new disciples would quickly discover the extraordinary awareness of the proximity of the Kingdom of God in the ordinariness of their lives. Putting aside their fears and differences, these four disciples were called into a common belief that they would witness the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom and assist Jesus in “curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1:10-18), he appealed to his disciples in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: “All of you must be agreement and there will be no divisions among you, but that you must be united in the same mind and purpose.” It is in the recognition of discipleship that we find the common bond of strength and hope. Paul was adamant in his instruction that the gospel they were to preach was the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not their own. “The cross of Christ must not be emptied of its power.” Dispelling the darkness of sin with the intensity of the light of Christ would be a consistent theme of Paul’s preaching. Paralleling Isaiah’s prediction of “those who lived in a land of deep darkness,” Paul would exhort his disciples to “clothe themselves with the light of Christ.”
Some years ago, at a celebration in remembrance of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., the poet Maya Angelou began her address to the packed auditorium by singing the traditional children’s Sunday school song” “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine.” She testified that in her own life of personal pain and suffering brought on by a world of segregation and poverty, that it was only with the “light of Jesus and true grit” that she found her voice of hope. Adding an extra verse to the children’s song, Angelou dedicated it to Martin Luther King, Jr.: “All my brothers and sisters, I’m gonna help them shine, help them shine, help them shine.” The thunderous testimony of thousands of voices singing harmoniously provided ample hope that the Kingdom of God was near! Near the end of her presentation Maya Angelou helped to dispel the fears of all present by inviting them, “To laugh as much as possible, including at your self, because the world will offer you plenty of opportunities to moan.”
The call to discipleship is a call to clarity of purpose. It is an invitation to discover the extraordinary grace of God in the ordinariness of our lives. Re-imagining the personal call to perfection demands a willingness to listen for the message of Jesus among the competing voices of prejudicial indifference and the moaning and groaning of a secular world in love with itself. Disregarding the thin-skinned, narcissistic religious and political leaders of our times demands courage and a consistent commitment to the Common Good.
Taking the call of discipleship seriously does not exclude the world of laughter or tears but demands that we memorize all the verses of both songs, “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine.” Discipleship, whether with Jesus or Martin Luther King, Jr. or Pope Francis demands wholehearted commitment. The call to discipleship is not offered as an installment or lay-away plan. Indeed, the price of the Good News is always right for those willing to risk the cost of discipleship.